A team of scientists and engineers at NASA are keen to build a spaceborne sodium Lidar. The team expected the space-based sodium Lidar will give a way to further understand the Earth's mesosphere.
Currently, the data about mesosphere, as the layer of the middle atmosphere are very rare. Therefore, NASA scientists and engineers, Diego Janches along with two laser experts Mike Krainak and Tony Yu, who work at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland plan to build and launch the first ever space-based sodium Lidar.
They currently lead the research and development to create the space-based sodium Lidar, according to NASA. Earlier this year, Janches, Krainak, and Yu won follow-on funding from NASA to advance their space-based sodium Lidar.
Space-based sodium Lidar is needed to analyze the Earth’s poorly understood mesosphere, the region of Earth's atmosphere located directly above the stratosphere. The mesosphere is the region where the Earth’s atmosphere meets the vacuum of space.
"We've made significant progress on the laser," Krainiak said regarding the space-based sodium Lidar. "If we win, we could be the first space-based sodium laser spectrometer for remote sensing."
Lidar is an abbreviation of Light Detection and Ranging, a remote sensing tool that consists of a laser, a scanner, and a specialized GPS receiver. According to the thorough explanation from NOAA, Lidar uses light in the form of a pulsed laser to measure ranges in variable distances to Earth. The pulses of light collected in Lidar, in combination with other airborne data is able to provide precise data about the Earth shape, therefore a space-based sodium Lidar will provide more accurate data.
The new space-based sodium Lidar will be deployed in the International Space Station and will use the NASA's Lidar instruments, called Sounders, which was originally created to measure carbon dioxide and methane. Using the Sounders will allow the scientists to analyze the complex relationship between chemistry and dynamics of the mesosphere. Watch the explanation on the Lidar technology in NASA below: