NASA will put an Aura around the Earth
- RELEASE: 04-158
NASA PLANS TO PUT AN AURA AROUND THE EARTH
On June 19, NASA will launch Aura, a next generation Earth-observing
satellite. Aura will supply the best information yet about the health
of Earth's atmosphere.
Aura will help scientists understand how atmospheric composition
affects and responds to Earth's changing climate. The satellite will
help reveal the processes that connect local and global air quality.
It will also track the extent Earth's protective ozone layer is
Aura will carry four instruments each designed to survey different
aspects of Earth's atmosphere. The instruments will provide an
unprecedented and complete picture of the composition of the
atmosphere. Aura will survey the atmosphere from the troposphere,
where mankind lives, through the stratosphere, where the ozone layer
resides and protects life on Earth.
Aura's space-based view of the atmosphere and its chemistry will
complete the first series of NASA's Earth Observing System satellites.
The other satellites are, Terra, which monitors land, and Aqua, which
observes Earth's water cycle.
"Gaining this global view of Earth will certainly reap new scientific
discoveries that will serve as essential stepping stones to our
further exploration of the Moon, Mars and beyond, the basis of the
Vision for Space Exploration," NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe said.
Aura will help answer key scientific questions, including whether the
ozone layer is recovering. Aura data may prove useful determing the
effectiveness of international agreements, which banned
ozone-depleting chemicals like chlorofluorocarbons. (CFCs).
Aura will accurately detect global levels of CFCs, and their
byproducts, chlorine and bromine, which destroy ozone. Aura will also
track the sources and processes controlling global and regional air
quality. It will help distinguish between natural and human-caused
sources of these gases. When ozone exists in the troposphere, it acts
as an air pollutant. Tropospheric ozone is linked to high levels of
precursors such as nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide and volatile
hydrocarbons. Aura will help scientists follow the sources of
tropospheric ozone and its precursors.
"Aura, the first comprehensive laboratory in space to help us better
understand the chemistry and composition of the Earth's atmosphere, is
fundamentally a mission to understand and protect the very air we
breathe, " said NASA Associate Administrator for Earth Science Dr.
Ghassem Asrar. "It is also a perfect complement to our other Earth
Observing System satellites that, together, will aid our nation and
our neighbors by determining the extent, causes, and regional
consequences of global change," he said.
As the composition of Earth's atmosphere changes, so does its ability
to absorb, reflect and retain solar energy. Greenhouse gases,
including water vapor, trap heat in the atmosphere. Airborne aerosols
from human and natural sources absorb or reflect solar energy based on
color, shape, size, and substance. The impact of aerosols,
tropospheric ozone and upper tropospheric water vapor on Earth's
climate remains largely unquantified. Aura's ability to monitor these
agents will help unravel some of their mystery.
Aura's four instruments, the High Resolution Dynamics Limb Sounder
(HIRDLS); the Microwave Limb Sounder (MLS); the Ozone Monitoring
Instrument (OMI); and the Tropospheric Emission Spectrometer (TES)
will work together to provide measurements in the troposphere and
stratosphere to help answer important climate questions.
HIRDLS was built by the United Kingdom and the United States. OMI was
built by the Netherlands and Finland in collaboration with NASA.
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., constructed TES
and MLS. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., manages
the Aura mission.
NASA's Earth Science Enterprise is dedicated to understanding the
Earth as an integrated system and applying Earth System Science to
improve prediction of climate, weather, and natural hazards using the
unique vantage point of space.
For Aura information and images on the Internet, visit: