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NASA Facts Terra the Earth Observing System (EOS) AM-1

NASA Facts Terra the Earth Observing System (EOS) AM-1

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Published by: Bob Andrepont on Feb 18, 2011
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NASA
Facts
National Aeronautics andSpace Administration
Goddard Space Flight Center
Greenbelt, Maryland 20771AC 301 286-8955
TERRA
THE EARTH OBSERVING SYSTEM(EOS) AM-1
FS-1999-08-028-GSFC
Earth System Science
Beginning in the 1960s, NASA pio-neered the study of the atmosphere fromthe unique perspective of space with thelaunch of its Television Infrared ObservationSatellite (TIROS-1). Thanks to new satelliteand computer technologies, it is now pos-sible to study the Earth as a global system.
Earth System Science 
integrates manydisciplines of scientific research that focuson understanding the planet as a whole, itsintegral parts and how its parts interact.Through their research, scientists are betterunderstanding and improving their forecast-ing of short-term climate phenomena. Forinstance, NOAA scientists predicted theonset of the 1997-98 El Niño about 10months before it occurred. Although we aregaining new insights into El Niño, we arecurrently unable to fully understand thelarge-scale impacts of the phenomenon,thus diminishing our ability to respond bothbefore and after the event.Long-term weather and climateprediction is a greater challenge that re-quires the collection of better data overlonger periods. Since climate changesoccur over vast ranges of space and time,their causes and effects are often difficult tomeasure and understand. Scientists mustobtain long-term data if they are to reach aclearer understanding of the interactionsamong the Earth’s physical and biologicalsystems. NASA’s Earth ObservingSystem(EOS) will help us to understand thecomplex links among air, land, water and lifewithin the Earth system.
What is Terra?
NASA’s commitment to studying theEarth as a global system continues with the
The Terra Spacecraft 
 
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Terra Spacecraft (originally called EOS AM-1), representing a key contribution by NASAto the U.S. Global Change Research Pro-gram. Terra is the flagship in a series ofEOS spacecraft. Terra carries five state-of-the-art instrument sets with measurementand accuracy capabilities never flownbefore, enabling it to observe the cycling ofwater, trace gases, energy, and nutrientsthroughout the Earth’s climate system.This comprehensive approach to datacollection enables scientists to study theinteractions among the four spheres of theEarth system – the oceans, lands, atmo-sphere, and biosphere.Terra simultaneously will studyclouds, water vapor, small particles in theatmosphere (called “aerosol” particles),trace gases, land surface and oceanicproperties, as well as the interaction be-tween them and their effect on the Earth’senergy budget and climate. Moreover,Terra will observe changes in the Earth’sradiation energy budget - which is theamount of incoming energy from the sunminus outgoing energy from reflectedsunlight and emitted heat. If we are tosucceed in building predictive computermodels of these complex interactions, wemust clearly comprehend global climaticprocesses and parameters. The Terra teamestimates that it will complete the first Earthsystem models within five years afterlaunch.
Mission Facts
NASA’s Goddard Space FlightCenter, Greenbelt, Md., provided thespacecraft or “bus” and one instrument(MODIS). Under Goddard management,Lockheed Martin assembled and tested theTerra spacecraft at its production facility inValley Forge, Pa.A polar-orbiting spacecraft, Terra isscheduled for launch in late of 1999 aboardan Atlas IIAS launch vehicle fromVandenberg Air force Base, Calif. Synchro-nized with the sun, Terra’s descending orbitwill cross the equator at 10:30 a.m. localtime during each orbit—hence the originalterm “AM.” Clouds typically form over tropi-cal land in the afternoon as the surfacewarms, creating updrafts; hence, Terra’smorning view will provide clearer images ofthe Earth’s lands. The satellite will orbit theEarth once every 99 minutes at an inclina-tion of 98 degrees relative to the equator, ata mean altitude of 438 nautical miles (705kilometers). Over the tropical oceans, thereare fewer clouds in the afternoon. Terra willbe followed by its “PM” spacecraft counter-part in the year 2000. EOS PM-1 will fly inan
ascending 
orbit with a 1:30 p.m. equato-rial crossing time, thus complementing andextending Terra’s measurement capabilities.Terra is a joint project between theUnited States, Japan, and Canada. The U.S.provided the spacecraft and three instru-ments developed by NASA Field Centers—the Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant EnergySystem (CERES), the Multi-angle ImagingSpectroRadiometer (MISR), and the Moder-ate-resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer(MODIS). Langley Research Center, Hamp-ton, Va. provided two CERES units, the JetPropulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.,provided MISR, and Goddard Space FlightCenter provided the MODIS instrument. TheJapanese Ministry of International Trade andIndustry provided the Advanced SpaceborneThermal Emission and Reflection Radiom-eter (ASTER). The Canadian Space Agencyprovided an instrument called Measure-ments of Pollution In The Troposphere(MOPITT).NASA’s Kennedy Space Center,Fla., will conduct launch operations usingthe Atlas launch vehicle under a contract
 
3
with Lockheed Martin Astronautics, Denver.Goddard will operate Terra via theTracking and Data Relay Satellite System.It also will receive, process, and dissemi-nate science data through the geographi-cally distributed Earth Observing SystemData and Information System (EOSDIS).EOS is managed by Goddard for NASA’sEarth Science strategic enterprise, Wash-ington, D.C.
The Instruments
The ASTER instrument will measurecloud properties, vegetation index, surfacemineralogy, soil properties, and surfacetemperature and topography for selectedregions of the Earth at very high resolution(up to 15 x 15 square meters per pixel).Additionally, because two of ASTER’s sub-systems are tiltable, it can obtain detailedthree-dimensional measurements of surfacetopography.The CERES instruments will measurethe reflected and radiant energy comingfrom the Earth’s surface and atmosphere,helping us to better determine our planet’senergy balance. The critical componentsthat affect the Earth’s energy balance arethe planet’s surface, atmosphere, aerosols,and clouds. CERES will extend the data setbegun in the 1980s by NASA’s Earth Radia-tion Budget Experiment (ERBE).With cameras pointed in nine differentviewing directions, the MISR instrument willmeasure every part of the Earth system thatscatters light differently at different angles:clouds, Earth’s surface, and particles float-ing in the atmosphere. Measuring the re-flective characteristics of each of these willhelp us learn about their changing physicalproperties, as well as quantify their impactson Earth’s energy budget. MISR also willprovide unique three-dimensional views ofclouds and volcanic plumes.The MODIS instrument will measurethe atmosphere, land, and ocean processes.This includes surface temperature (both theland and ocean), ocean color, global vegeta-tion, cloud characteristics, snow cover, andtemperature and moisture profiles. MODIS iscapable of viewing the entire globe daily atmoderate resolutions, ranging from 250-meters square to 1-kilometer square (about0.5 square miles) pixels. MODIS is a global-scale, multi-spectral instrument useful foraddressing questions in many scientificdisciplines.The MOPITT instrument is an infra-red gas-correlation radiometer that willmeasure gaseous concentrations of carbonmonoxide and methane (important air pollut-ants) in the lower atmosphere (troposphere),the lowest 10 miles of the atmosphere.MOPITT will provide global data on thesepollutants as to their location on the planetand the season.NASA supports about 800 scientistsfrom the United States and abroad to meetglobal change research objectives usingTerra data.
Goals and Objectives
NASA’s Earth Science Enterpriseidentified several high-priority measure-ments that EOS should perform to facilitatea better understanding of the components ofthe Earth system—the atmosphere, theland, the oceans, the polar ice caps, and theglobal energy budget. The specific objec-tives of Terra include:• providing the first global “snapshot”of numerous Earth surface and atmosphericcharacteristics, the initial set of measure-

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