The PACE satellite (Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, and ocean Ecosystem) took off yesterday, Thursday, February 8, at 1:33 a.m. from the Cape Canaveral space station, aboard a Falcon 9 rocket. The launch s&# 8217;is going well, as we can see in this video (you have to advance to 1:12:17 in order to reach the countdown). The wait will have been quite long (ten years for the scientific teams to wait), but PACE will finally be able to begin its mission: study the oceans and the atmosphere from its orbit.
A unique look at our oceans
PACE has on board a precision optical spectrometer unmatched, the OCI (Ocean Color Instrument). Thanks to this, it will be able to detect and record all variations, even the tiniest, taking place on the surface of the oceans. These variations are very convincing witnesses to the health of these ecosystems, greatly weakened by anthropogenic activities.
James Werdell, scientific manager of the mission, presses the&# 8217;importance of collecting this type of data, particularly concerning phytoplankton: “ These are important elements of the carbon cycle, they are incredibly important to monitor in the medium term. But there are also short-term observations, such as the impact on fisheries and coastal areas, including beaches “.
Better understand our atmosphere
In addition to the OCI, PACE also has two other cutting-edge instruments on board. The first, HARP2, is a polarimeter, a device that measures the polarization of light, or the orientation of light waves in a specific plane. The second, SPEXone, is a spectro-polarimeter. That is to say, it can measure both the polarization of light while analyzing it according to its different wavelengths.
These two tools will be dedicated to the study of aerosols (set of extremely fine particles, liquid or solid, in suspension in air). HARP2 will be responsible for studying the role they play in cloud formation while SPEXone will focus on the characterization of aerosols present in the troposphere (8 to 15 km altitude). Located at an altitude of 700 km, these instruments will precisely cover the entire oceans daily.
A minimum three-year mission
If all goes well, PACE will begin its data collection from April, for a period of three years. However, it has enough fuel to remain in orbit and continue its observations for an entire decade.
A project worth 948 million dollars, the data of which will be made available in open access. Excellent news for scientists of all stripes, who will be able to have new and very valuable information at hand.
Beyond the scientific aspect, NASA officials expect PACE to also play a central role for politicians and other decision-makers. Indeed, given the importance of the data collected, it could positively influenceenvironmental and climate policies on a global scale. Enjoy your trip, PACE!
- PACE, NASA's latest satellite, took off on Thursday, February 8 .
- Its mission is to analyze the oceans and the Earth's atmosphere for three years.
< li>For this, it is equipped with three cutting-edge instruments: the OCI, the HARP2 and the SPEXone.
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