Engineers at Orbital Sciences, a spacecraft and rocket manufacturer, are testing the world's first satellite dedicated solely to tracking atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide.
The satellite, estimated to cost about $468 million, is being developed by NASA scientists at a Gilbert, Ariz., manufacturing facility. The scientists' aim is to make space the next frontier in the study of global climate change.
"It's obvious that human emissions, particularly within the developing world, have been increasing at a staggering rate," said Michael Gunson, project scientist for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.
"It's going to affect all of us, for example, if we find that the response of the great rainforests in the Amazon, the Congo and Indonesia is very sensitive to climate change," Gunson added.
The "Orbiting Carbon Observatory," or OCO-2 satellite, will operate about 400 miles above the planet's surface to document the movement of CO2 from sources such as automobiles and factories to absorption areas like forests.
"Along the way, we will naturally uncover information about the patterns of human emissions of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere," Gunson said.
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, a former astronaut who commanded two space shuttle missions, acknowledged a sense of urgency in launching the satellite, tentatively scheduled to go up next July.
The satellite is designed to help scientists and government agencies monitor trends such as deforestation, shrinking glaciers and crop production.
"We don't live on a partitioned planet," Bolden said. "It's one big system, and if we don't get it right, we will destroy humanity" (Parker Leavitt, Arizona Republic, Aug. 12).
Reprinted from ClimateWire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. 202-628-6500.E&E Publishing is the leading source for comprehensive, daily coverage of environmental and energy issues. Click here to start a free trial to E&E's information services.
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