A carbon-dioxide-monitoring satellite successfully reached orbit on Wednesday morning, NASA officials announced, replacing one lost after a failed launch five years ago.
The $475 million Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) mission will map carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, watching the Earth “breathe” in the words of NASA mission manager Betsy Edwards. A greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide is the big player in global warming, contributing to the roughly 1 degree Fahrenheit (0.6 degrees Celsius) increase in average surface temperatures seen over the past century.
“This challenging mission is both timely and important,” said NASA Earth Sciences chief Michael Freilich in a statement. “OCO-2 will produce exquisitely precise measurements of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations near Earth’s surface, laying the foundation for informed policy decisions on how to adapt to and reduce future climate change.”
The spacecraft’s instruments will be checked over the next ten days, before the craft starts its two-year greenhouse gas mapping mission. The mission should reveal the exact atmospheric contributions of the largest sources of carbon dioxide, such as power plants, factories, and cities. And it should reveal the largest uptake points for the greenhouse gas, such as forests and oceans.
The mission replaces the first Orbiting Carbon Observatory, which was destroyed in 2009 after its capsule covering failed to open after launch.
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