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NASA’s Tiny Satellite Maps Global Ice Couds

A bread loaf-sized satellite has captured the first global picture of the small frozen particles inside clouds, normally called ice clouds, NASA has said

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NASA charts roadmap for human missions to Moon, Mars. Pixabay
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A bread loaf-sized satellite has captured the first global picture of the small frozen particles inside clouds, normally called ice clouds, NASA has said.

Ice clouds start as tiny particles high in the atmosphere. Absorbing moisture, the ice crystals grow and become heavier, causing them to fall to lower altitudes. Eventually, the particles get so heavy, they fall and melt to form rain drops. The ice crystals may also just stay in the air.

Like other clouds, ice clouds affect Earth’s energy budget by either reflecting or absorbing the Sun’s energy and by affecting the emission of heat from Earth into space. Thus, ice clouds are key variables in weather and climate models.

Representational image.
Representational Image, VOA

“Heavy downpours originate from ice clouds,” said Dong Wu, IceCube principal investigator at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

Measuring atmospheric ice on a global scale remains highly uncertain because satellites have been unable to detect the amount of small ice particles inside the clouds, as these particles are too opaque for infrared and visible sensors to penetrate.

The experimental small satellite, IceCube, deployed from the International Space Station (ISS) in May 2017, has filled this void, NASA said on Tuesday.

Also Read: NASA Is Sending a Helicopter to Mars in 2020

To overcome that limitation, IceCube was outfitted with a submillimeter radiometer that bridges the missing sensitivity between infrared and microwave wavelengths.

Despite weighing only 10 pounds, IceCube is a bona fide spacecraft, complete with three-axis attitude control, deployable solar arrays and a deployable communications antenna.

Originally a 30-day technology-demonstration mission, IceCube is still fully operational in low-Earth orbit almost a year later, measuring ice clouds and providing data that’s “good enough to do some real science,” Wu said. (IANS)

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The Aborted Mission To Relaunch In December: NASA

In August, a hole appeared in a Soyuz capsule docked to the ISS that caused a brief loss of air pressure and had to be patched.

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Russian Rocket
Astronaut Anne McClain, left, is seen during training at the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory in Houston, Texas. VOA

The American astronaut who will hitch the first ride on a Russian rocket since last month’s aborted launch and dramatic emergency landing is confident that her scheduled trip in December on a rocket that she calls a “workhorse” will go smoothly.

Astronaut Anne McClain, along with a Russian cosmonaut and a Canadian astronaut, will man the Dec. 3 mission. It will be the Russian-made Soyuz-FG’s first crewed flight since Oct. 11, when U.S. astronaut Nick Hague and a Russian cosmonaut landed unharmed on the Kazakh desert steppe after the rocket bound for the International Space Station failed in mid-air two minutes after liftoff.

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Specialists watch broadcasts from the Soyuz spacecraft showing astronaut David Saint-Jacques of Canada, Oleg Kononenko of Russia and astronaut Anne McClain of the U.S. attending the final qualification training for their upcoming space mission in Star City near Moscow, Russia. VOA

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration has relied on Russian rockets to ferry astronauts to the space station since the United States retired its Space Shuttle program in 2011, though the agency has announced plans for test flights carrying two astronauts on commercial rockets made by Boeing and SpaceX next April.

“I do see the incident that happened on Oct. 11 with our launch abort not as a failure but as a success,” McClain told Reuters in a telephone interview from Russia. “It actually bolsters my confidence in the rocket and in the processes that we have.

“We’re confident in the vehicle and getting back to it,” McClain said of the Soyuz rocket, which she called “the workhorse of the space program.”

After lifting off from Kazakhstan’s Soviet-era cosmodrome of Baikonur last month, a damaged sensor caused one of the rocket’s three booster stages to separate improperly, falling inward on the rocket and jolting it off its ascent two miles above ground, Russian investigators announced earlier this month.

Russian Rocket
The Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft carrying the crew of astronaut Nick Hague of the U.S. and cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin of Russia blasts off to the International Space Station (ISS) from the launchpad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan. VOA

During Assembly

Video from inside the capsule showed the two men being shaken around at the moment the failure occurred, their arms and legs flailing. Russian cosmonaut Alexei Ovchinin can be heard saying, “That was a quick flight.”

The accident was the first serious launch problem experienced by a crewed Soyuz space mission since 1983, when a crew narrowly escaped before a launchpad explosion.

Also Read: NASA Grants $7 Mn For New Life Detection

In August, a hole appeared in a Soyuz capsule docked to the ISS that caused a brief loss of air pressure and had to be patched. Dmitry Rogozin, head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, has said that it could have been made deliberately by someone during manufacturing or while the craft was in space.

McClain and two other crewmates will launch from the same launchpad in Baikonur, joining the space station’s current three-person crew. (VOA)