Jan 29, 2015 07:12 PM EST
Fast winds over California postponed a NASA satellite launch today, but researchers with the space agency say that the mission is far from over. Set to launch this morning, Jan. 29, the Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) spacecraft developed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory may have had a setback but it still has plans to map the world in a way researchers have never done before.
Designed to detect the moisture content in land surfaces, and also determine whether land is frozen or not during its three-year mission in Earth's outer orbit, the SMAP spacecraft is planning to give environmental researchers a whole new view of the planet on a global scale by providing measurements for virtually every geographic location as it orbits the Earth.
"The relevance is (soil moisture) is a pretty sensitive indicator of future water availability and can be used in climate models to help improve forecasts," Project Manager for SMAP, Kent Kellogg says. "One of the really nice things about this mission is we have a lot of relevance for climate science, but the data is also very useful for everyday practical applications. It will improve weather forecasting significantly, drought and flood forecasting, food productivity and diseases."
The satellite will be capable of looking beneath the clouds, vegetation and other surfaces, and will produce new global maps every two to three days. "It's unique because for the first time they are combining a radar instrument, which has a really fine resolution and detail in what it sees, and also a radiometer, which can see through clouds and has other benefits," researcher with the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder and the Data Management Lead for the SMAP mission, Amanda Leon says.
Though the mission has been placed on hold, as NASA waits for another launch in more suitable weather conditions, the plans are still set in stone and soon environmentalists and researchers alike will be able to have moisture information only a click away.
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