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NASA will Launch A Laser Satellite That Will Record The Change in Height Of Polar Ice

Beyond the poles, ICESat-2 will also measure the height of ocean and land surfaces, including forests.

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Engineers evaluated the performance of Orion's parachute system during normal landing sequences as well as several failure scenarios Flickr
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NASA is launching a laser-armed satellite next month that will measure — in unprecedented detail — changes in the heights of Earth’s polar ice to understand what is causing ice sheets to melt fast.

In recent years, contributions of melt from the ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica alone have raised global sea level by more than a millimetre a year, accounting for approximately one-third of observed sea level rise, and the rate is increasing.

Called the Ice, Cloud and Land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2), the mission is scheduled to be launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on September 15, NASA said in a statement late on Thursday.

ICESat-2 will measure the average annual elevation change of land ice covering Greenland and Antarctica to within the width of a pencil, capturing 60,000 measurements every second.

“The new observational technologies of ICESat-2 will advance our knowledge of how the ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica contribute to sea level rise,” said Michael Freilich, Director of the Earth Science Division in NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.

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ICESat-2 will measure the average annual elevation change of land ice covering Greenland and Antarctica. Flickr

ICESat-2 will improve upon NASA’s 15-year record of monitoring the change in polar ice heights.

It started in 2003 with the first ICESat mission and continued in 2009 with NASA’s Operation IceBridge, an airborne research campaign that kept track of the accelerating rate of change.

ICESat-2’s Advanced Topographic Laser Altimeter System (ATLAS) measures height by timing how long it takes individual light photons to travel from the spacecraft to Earth and back.

“ATLAS required us to develop new technologies to get the measurements needed by scientists to advance the research,” said Doug McLennan, ICESat-2 Project Manager.

“That meant we had to engineer a satellite instrument that not only will collect incredibly precise data, but also will collect more than 250 times as many height measurements as its predecessor,” he added.

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IceBridge, a six-year NASA mission, is the largest airborne survey of Earth’s polar ice ever flown. Flickr

 

ATLAS will fire 10,000 times each second, sending hundreds of trillions of photons to the ground in six beams of green light.

With so many photons returning from multiple beams, ICESat-2 will get a much more detailed view of the ice surface than its predecessor.

Also Read: SpaceX Launches Communications Satellite

As it circles Earth from pole to pole, ICESat-2 will measure ice heights along the same path in the polar regions four times a year, providing seasonal and annual monitoring of ice elevation changes.

Beyond the poles, ICESat-2 will also measure the height of ocean and land surfaces, including forests. (IANS)

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NASA Celebrates Its 60th Anniversary

NASA began operations on Oct. 1, 1958

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NASA Administrator James Bridenstine delivers remarks as he tours the NASA Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. VOA

NASA chiefs going back 30 years have come together to mark the space agency’s 60th anniversary.

Five former NASA administrators joined current boss Jim Bridenstine in Orlando on Monday. It was the largest gathering ever of NASA heads and included every administrator since 1989. The conference was arranged by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

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NASA’s Opporutnity Rover. Flickr

The longest-serving administrator, Daniel Goldin of the 1990s, told Bridenstine there’s more to the company than human spaceflight and that the science and technology programs can help draw more public support.

Richard Truly of the post-Challenger shuttle era agreed, but noted humans need to explore.

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It was the largest gathering ever of NASA heads. Pixabay

Bridenstine, meanwhile, ran down NASA’s latest plans for sending astronauts back to the moon.

Also Read: Private Space Firm SpaceX Will Soon Send Its First Private Passenger To Moon

Moonwalker Buzz Aldrin was present for the panel discussion.

The Company  began operations on Oct. 1, 1958. (VOA)