After a series of delays, NASA’s Aura satellite was launched into orbit on 18th July 2004, on a $785 million mission to study Earth’s atmosphere. A two-stage Boeing Delta II rocket carrying the satellite roared off the launch pad at this Central California coastal base just before 3:02 a.m. The satellite separated from the rocket about an hour later and entered orbit 438 miles above Earth.
The liftoff was cancelled four times in recent weeks because of technical problems.Aura’s six-year mission is intended to determine the composition of Earth’s atmosphere in unprecedented detail. The mission is the first to focus on pollution in the troposphere, the roughly 6-mile-thick region in the atmosphere that contains the air we breathe. The satellite is the last of NASA’s three Earth Observing System satellites & it will track five major air pollutants as they disperse around the globe.
As it orbits, Aura will continue to follow damage to the global ozone layer, which shields the planet from harmful solar radiation. NASA scientists hope the satellite will show that the layer is recovering now that most of the chemicals that damage it are regulated. Together with the two previous Earth Observing System satellites — Aqua, which monitors the planet’s oceans and water cycle, and Terra, which monitors the land — Aura will provide vital data on how the planet works, linking oceanographic and geologic processes to global weather patterns.