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Starlyte

NASA's Aura Spacecraft to Gauge Atmospheric Health

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The Aura satellite sits in a clean room prior to launch. CREDIT: Northrop Grumman.

Humans can live without a lot of things on Earth, cable television and Twinkies for example, but air isn't one of them.

Now a new NASA satellite is poised to take the closest look ever at the air humans breathe to understand how smoke, aerosols and other pollutants can be carried through the atmosphere and affect air quality around the world.

The Aura spacecraft, the latest and last satellite NASA's first Earth Observing System (EOS), will also monitor changes in Earth climate and search the planet's ozone layer for any signs of recuperation after years of attack by man-made pollutants like chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).

"It truly is a chemistry lab in space," said Michael Tanner, Aura's lead engineer and the mission's program executive at NASA headquarters, of the spacecraft. "If it works for one day we will have more information on our air than ever seen from space."

Aimed for an orbital slot some 438 miles (705 kilometers) above Earth, Aura will focus its attention on the stratosphere, home to the ozone layer, and the layer of breathable air stretching down to ground level. The spacecraft will fill the atmospheric gap in left by its EOS satellite comrades Aqua, which studies Earth oceans, and Terra, aimed at landmasses.

The spacecraft is expected to launch on earlier than July 3, 2004.

The air we breathe

Nestled among the four instruments aboard Aura is a device called the Tropospheric Emission Spectrometer (TES) that will study a layer of the atmosphere in which most people live, work and play. That layer, the troposphere, starts on the ground and stretches about six miles (10 kilometers) up to the stratosphere, where the ozone layer screens the planet from ultraviolet radiation.

Space-based observations of the troposphere are traditionally difficult due to interference from clouds that sit between satellites and the atmosphere's bottom-most layer. Aura's TES instrument, however, is designed look downward and horizontally at the same time. The configuration should be able to track air pollution caused by Mother Nature from volcanoes or wildfires, as well as by man, including the burning of trees and other biomass in the tropics and industrial byproducts in North America and China.

"Mostly, it's considered a local problem, but it's really a global one," said Aura project scientist Mark Schoeberl, based at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, during a telephone interview. "We need to understand how well pollutants can get from the United States to Europe, for example."

Dust from deserts in China, for example, can waft out over the Pacific Ocean and affect air quality in the Pacific Northwest, and smoky air from Canadian wildfires stretched from New York to Washington D.C. in 2002.

But with a better understanding of how such pollutants are transported through the atmosphere, researchers would be better equipped to issue air quality warnings for residents who might otherwise suffer health problems.

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An artist's concept of the Aura spacecraft in orbit. CREDIT: NASA/GSFC.

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The Antarctic ozone hole of 2003 was the second largest ever observed. The dark blue indicates the region of maximum ozone depletion. CREDIT: NASA/GSFC.

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Well I truly believe we are in for some bad news once data from this satellite is collected. I'm also looking forward to the news.

I'm looking forward to it, because this will be the news that instigates change. If NASA comes out and says "Hey listen we are destroying our planet, we need to change things" Then we can bet things will change.

I'm going to go ahead and spew some prophetic words here.....mark them.

I believe that the data collected from this satellite and the interpretation of said data will represent the DEATH of the internal combustion engine.!

Lets hope I'm right.

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I hope you're right too Chauncy, but I'm afraid the powers that be and those that back them will just dismiss it like they already have and continue on their merry way. Can you imagine the oil peeps (and I don't mean the CEO's etc of the companies......I mean the individuals and families that own them) giving a tinker's cuss about the rest of us, let alone the planet in general??. All they're worried about is that the money and power that the oil gives them doesn't dry up and blow away too.

I've seen too many inventions and devices disappear into oblivion from being bought up by oil companies and hidden away to be too optimistic.....and the general populace is both too apathetic and too dependent on oil to try and do anything about it.

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I mean the individuals and families that own them) giving a tinker's cuss about the rest of us, let alone the planet in general??. All they're worried about is that the money and power that the oil gives them doesn't dry up and blow away too.

This sentiment is an obvious one to arrive at, and this 'network' to which you speak is a force to be reckoned no doubt there.

I see the Aura satellite's launch as a sign that the continued polluting of dear old Ma'Nature has more grave results then just smog and sunburns or severe weather.

There is a theory on the fact that continued global Warming will cause techtonic reaction as well, due to a swell in our Tidal Buldge and a subsequent wobbling of the globe. This wobble occurring is the earth re-balancing itself.

http://www.faqs.org/faqs/astronomy/faq/par...section-20.html

http://gcmd.gsfc.nasa.gov/Resources/Learni...g/sealevel.html

I feel that our governments are coming to the conclusion that there won't be any dollars to be made if this trend continues or is excellerated by greed.

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I wouldn't be surprised if the major oil companies are building or have already built vechicles that are that completely run on something other than fossil fuels. So when we finally run out of fossil fules, they will be like "oh well, hey...on a totally unrelated topic, we have these new cars that you can drive...give us money..." disgust.gif

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You know, I've often wondered what would be said if an "eco-terrorist", who was good at genetic engineering, developed a bacterium that oil and released it into the oil fields and such. Make it a "super" bacterium, one that really chewd its way through all the oil, converting it into water and sugars. Go through the whole lot in about 1 to 2 years.

That'd put the wind up them.

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Well I`m guessing that it will just be bad news from the aura spacecraft. We know already we have stuffed up the atmosphere and the a lot of the world basically but it will still fall on deaf ears and the peole with the power and money will just wait until things get really bad to do anything and it will be to late. Maybe some people will try and use this to get people to listen but I doubt it will work. I`m afraid our time is running out.

Well on a happy note at least NASA seem to be launching more and more missions and hopefully that number will just increase. Maybe they can get the world to listen.

Lets just hope the news isn`t too bad and that we haven`t stuffed up the atmosphere too much. You never know it may have got a little better. Here`s hoping. thumbsup.gif

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