US: NASA has chosen two proposals for new Earth science investigations that will put new instruments in low-Earth orbit to track harmful particulate air pollutants and study the development of tropical cyclones. Observations of small atmospheric aerosols from the Multi-Angle Imager for Aerosols (MAIA) will be combined with health information to determine the toxicity of different particulate matter types in airborne pollutants over the world’s major cities.
The Time-Resolved Observations of Precipitation structure and storm Intensity with a Constellation of Smallsats (TROPICS) investigation will develop and launch a constellation of CubeSats to study the development of tropical cyclones through rapid-revisit sampling. William Blackwell of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lincoln Laboratory in Lexington is the principal investigator.
"We are excited to make selections that expand the use of CubeSats for Earth sciences and that make measurements and perform analyses that will have direct societal benefit," said Geoffrey Yoder, deputy associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. "These innovative Earth Venture Instruments will join and expand our growing suite of NASA Earth-observing sensors."
The MAIA team has extensive experience in polarimetry, air pollution, and human health. David Diner, who is the principal investigator at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, has led numerous polarimetry observations from sub-orbital platforms throughout his career. The team includes partnerships with NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, and Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, as well as several universities, federal research organizations and international partners.
The second set of investigations selected in 2014 were the Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation (GEDI) and ECOsystem Spaceborne Thermal Radiometer Experiment on Space Station (ECOSTRESS). These instruments will measure changes in global vegetation from the International Space Station, illuminating how forests and ecosystems are affected by changes in climate and land use.
Earth Venture missions are managed by NASA’s Earth System Science Pathfinder program located at Langley for the Science Mission Directorate. The missions in this program provide an innovative approach to address Earth science research with periodic windows of opportunity to accommodate new scientific priorities.