US: This year NASA is turning its eyes back to Earth with five planned space missions to take a look at the home planet. The first mission, the Global Precipitation Measurement Core Observatory, is to launch in February, from Japan as a joint project with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). It will study global rain and snowfall. “With five new missions set to launch in 2014, this really is shaping up to be the year of the Earth, and this focus on our home planet will make a significant difference in people’s lives around the world. In July, the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 satellite will begin measuring carbon dioxide levels in a bid to better understand the greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming. It is a replacement for a similar satellite that was lost during launch in 2009,” said Charles Bolden, NASA Administrator
In November, NASA plans to launch the Soil Moisture Active Passiva (SMAP) satellite that will measure water levels in the soil. The data will help with water resource management decisions, predictions about plant growth and agricultural productivity, and flood and drought monitoring. Two other instruments are to be sent to the orbiting International Space Station where they will be installed to take stock of happenings back home. The ISS-RapidScat to be sent to the station in June aboard a private SpaceX Dragon craft is to measure ocean winds around the world. The Cloud Aersol Transport System (CATS) will arrive on a SpaceX craft in September and will measure small particles in Earth’s atmosphere.
Source: Hindu businessline