From: LARRY KLAES (email@example.com)
Date: Tue Apr 23 2002 - 20:39:48 PDT
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Sent: Tuesday, April 23, 2002 8:56 PM
Subject: NASA's Aqua Spacecraft to Study Earth's Water Cycle
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Contact: Alan Buis/JPL (818) 354-0474 April 23, 2002
David E. Steitz/NASA Headquarters (202) 358-1730
NASA'S AQUA SPACECRAFT TO STUDY EARTH'S WATER CYCLE
NASA's mission to understand and protect our home planet will mark a major milestone
this spring with the launch of the Aqua satellite, carrying the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory-
managed Atmospheric Infrared Sounder instrument. Aqua, due to bring us unprecedented
insight into our world's global water cycle, is the latest sibling in a family of Earth Observing
System satellites dedicated to studying Earth and expanding our knowledge of global climate
The primary role of Aqua, as the name implies, is to gather information about water in
the Earth's system. Equipped with six state-of-the-art instruments, Aqua will collect data on
global precipitation, evaporation and the cycling of water.
During its six-year mission, Aqua will gather information on changes in ocean circulation
and study how clouds and surface water processes affect our climate. This information will help
scientists better understand how global ecosystems are changing, and how they respond to and
affect global environmental change.
JPL's Atmospheric Infrared Sounder will measure Earth's atmosphere and surface; this
will allow scientists to improve weather prediction and to observe changes in Earth's climate.
"Aqua will provide unprecedented information on the global water cycle. The spacecraft
will enable operational agencies to create more accurate weather forecasts in the future," said Dr.
Ghassem Asrar, associate administrator for NASA's Earth Science Enterprise, NASA
Headquarters, Washington, D.C.
"Aqua will observe our Earth's oceans, atmosphere, land, ice and snow covers and
vegetation," said Dr. Claire Parkinson, the Aqua project scientist at NASA's Goddard Space
Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. "This comprehensive approach enables scientists to study the
interactions among key elements of the Earth system so as to better understand our planet."
Aqua is expected to launch no earlier than May 2 from Vandenberg Air Force Base,
Calif. on a Boeing Delta-7920-10L expendable launch vehicle. The 10-minute launch window
opens at 2:55 a.m. Pacific Time (5:55 a.m. Eastern Time). Aqua will fly at an altitude of
approximately 705 kilometers (438 miles) above Earth in a near polar and sun synchronous orbit.
Aqua is the sister satellite to NASA's Terra spacecraft, launched in December of 1999.
Aqua will cross the equator daily at 1:30 p.m. as it heads north. The early afternoon observation
time contrasts with the Terra satellite, which crosses the equator between 10:30 and 10:45 a.m.
daily. The two satellites, Aqua's afternoon observations and Terra's morning observations, will
yield important insights into the "diurnal variability," or the daily cycling of key scientific
parameters such as precipitation and ocean circulation.
Aqua is a joint project between the United States, Japan and Brazil. The United States
provided the spacecraft and four of Aqua's six scientific instruments. NASA's Goddard Space
Flight Center provided the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer and the Advanced
Microwave Sounding Unit. JPL provided the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder, and NASA's
Langley Research Center, Hampton, Va., provided the Clouds and the Earth's Radiant Energy
Japan's National Space Development Agency provided the Advanced Microwave
Scanning Radiometer. The Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais (the Brazilian Institute for
Space Research) provided the Humidity Sounder for Brazil.
Aqua is part of NASA's Earth Science Enterprise, a long-term research effort dedicated to
understanding and protecting our home planet. Through the study of Earth, NASA will help to
provide sound science to policy and economic decision makers so as to better life here, while
developing the technologies needed to explore the universe and search for life beyond our home
planet. More information about NASA's Earth Science Enterprise can be found at:
More information about the Aqua program is available at:
More information about the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder can be found at:
JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.
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