Press Release

NASA Airborne Earth Science Missions Focus of Jan. 25 Media Day

By SpaceRef Editor
January 8, 2013
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NASA Airborne Earth Science Missions Focus of Jan. 25 Media Day

PASADENA, Calif. – NASA is inviting media to look behind-the-scenes at several active Earth science missions taking to the air soon to study various aspects of our planet, including climate change, air pollution, earthquakes, volcanoes, surface water and soil moisture. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., is managing or participating in several of these airborne missions, which are based at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center in Southern California.

On Jan. 25, journalists will have the opportunity to meet with mission scientists to find out how they are using airborne instruments in conjunction with satellite observations to advance our understanding of complex Earth systems. Tours of mission operations and NASA research aircraft will be conducted at the Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility in Palmdale, Calif., and at Dryden’s main campus on Edwards Air Force Base.

Among the Earth Science missions to be highlighted during the day-long media opportunity will be three major missions that will probe air pollution across central California and key climate change unknowns high over the tropical Pacific Ocean. Two of NASA’s high-altitude aircraft, the unmanned Global Hawk and the ER-2, are among the planes that will fly during these missions.

The Airborne Tropical Tropopause Experiment (ATTREX) campaign focuses on the region of the upper atmosphere where pollutants and other gases enter the stratosphere and potentially influence our climate. A key focus of the mission is water vapor, which can significantly impact Earth’s energy budget, ozone layer and climate. Among the instruments participating in ATTREX is JPL’s Microwave Temperature Profiler (better known as MTP), which will provide unique, continuous measurements of the tropical tropopause layer’s cold-point, the “throttle” that controls whether or not water freezes out and precipitates back to Earth or enters Earth’s stratosphere. These data will be important for studying atmospheric dynamics in the tropical tropopause layer and how these dynamics affect its composition and thermal structure.

The Polarimeter Definition Experiment (PODEX) campaign will fly several of a new breed of instruments that scientists plan to fly in space one day to improve our measurements of aerosols and clouds. Aerosols, tiny particles produced across the world from many different sources, influence Earth’s climate and can affect human health. JPL’s AirMSPI polarimeter is one of the three prototype polarimeters that will be tested.

The multi-year DISCOVER-AQ campaign will fly NASA’s P3B and B200 King Air planes over California’s San Joaquin Valley to measure air pollution this winter. The mission seeks to improve the monitoring of pollution from satellites so that scientists can produce better air quality forecasts and more accurately identify pollution sources.

Scientists and aircraft from three other JPL Earth science missions preparing for flights later this year also will be available for interviews and tours. JPL’s Uninhabited Aerial Vehicle Synthetic Aperture Radar (UAVSAR), flying aboard a NASA C-20A piloted aircraft, is used to study earthquakes, volcanoes, oil spills, landslides and glacier movements, among other areas. It will be testing a Ka-band radar for observing glacier and land ice topography and conducting earthquake fault monitoring flights over Baja California. JPL’s Air Surface Water Ocean Topography campaign is testing instruments for a future spacecraft mission that will make the first-ever global survey of Earth’s surface water. And JPL’s Airborne Microwave Observatory of Subcanopy and Subsurface mission, or AirMOSS, will fly a P-band synthetic aperture radar in the UAVSAR pod on a NASA G-III aircraft to gather high-resolution measurements of moisture in the upper part of soil, where plant roots penetrate, in representative areas of North American ecosystems. AirMOSS data will be used to estimate regional transfers of carbon from one carbon pool to another in North America. AirMOSS will be deployed to Mexico and Costa Rica in mid-February.

Media requests for event credentials should be submitted via email to NASA Dryden’s public affairs office at or by phone to 661-276-3449 no later than Jan. 11 for U.S. citizens and permanent resident aliens. Registration for foreign national media is already closed. Media representatives wishing to participate must be on assignment with a verifiable media organization. No substitutions of non-credentialed personnel will be allowed.

U.S. citizens must provide full name, date and place of birth, media organization, the last six digits of their social security number and their driver’s license number and state of issue.

For more on UAVSAR, visit: . For more on AirSWOT, see: . For more on AirMOSS, visit: . For more on NASA’s Airborne Science Program, visit: . For more on NASA’s Earth Science Program, visit: .

JPL is managed by the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena for NASA.

SpaceRef staff editor.