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NASA launches satellite to assess Earth's health – Science & Health

NASA launches satellite to assess Earth's health – Science & Health

PACE is a “technological leap” that will allow for a major advance as one of its sensors can recognize up to 256 colors in the ocean, while previous tools were only able to distinguish between less than ten shades.

NASA plans to launch a revolutionary satellite on Tuesday that will allow it to analyze Earth's “vital signs” and achieve a better understanding of the health of the planet, especially its oceans and atmosphere.

Danita Delimont/Getty Images

The PACE satellite, which will be aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, is scheduled to lift off at 01:33 (06:33 in Lisbon) from Cape Canaveral in central Florida.

NASA oceanographer Violeta Sangwan explained on Monday to Efe that PACE will be placed in an orbit farther than the International Space Station (ISS), about 677 kilometers from Earth.

The Spanish scientist stressed that this satellite is a revolution because it will provide details about the ocean, especially microalgae (phytoplankton), which has not been achieved before.

He explains that phytoplankton represent only 1% of the total mass of plants on the planet (including terrestrial), but they nonetheless “generate 50% to 60% of the oxygen” available on the planet.

He stressed that they are “highly efficient in capturing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen, much more than terrestrial plants.”

The PACE mission, which stands for Plankton, Aerosols, Clouds and Ocean Ecosystems, is unique because in addition to analyzing phytoplankton in detail, it does so from the point of view of their interaction with aerosols and suspended matter in the air.

“This will give amazing insight that we haven't had yet, into how our oceans behave, what our atmosphere is like and how they both interact and regulate our climate,” Sangwan said.

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He explained that the satellite consists of three devices, one of which is a sensor that can recognize up to 256 colors in the ocean, while previous tools can only distinguish less than ten shades.

“The amount of data is incredible compared to what we had before,” the scientist stressed.

The importance of identifying these shades is because the color of phytoplankton varies depending on its species.

Sanguan added that this organism is very important, not only because it is the base of the food chain and the origin of life, but because of its importance to climate change.

“Knowing the health of our oceans is essential, because they are the lungs of our planet,” emphasized the oceanographer of the PACE mission at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, in Greenbelt (Maryland).

Sangwan pointed out that the ocean represents 70% of the Earth's surface and that only about 5% has been studied.

In this sense, he highlights that PACE represents a “technological leap” that will allow significant progress in its three-year useful life.

Sangwan also stressed that the satellite will have fuel for ten years, and he hopes it will survive longer than the three years given by the North American space agency for its mission.

The Spanish company specified that the satellite will fly in an orbit moving with the Earth, and that there may be certain areas of the planet with a frequency between one and two days, which helps to monitor changes in the oceans and study their development. These types of phytoplankton.

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He pointed out that this information is crucial “for climate change, the carbon cycle and the life of the planet.”

The $946 million PACE mission joins a fleet of twenty satellites monitoring various Earth variables.

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