News Column

Satellite off on a mission to help Earth

July 1, 2014

LOS ANGELES: Five years after a Nasa satellite to track carbon dioxide plunged into the ocean after lift-off, the space agency is launching another almost exactly like it today - this time on a different rocket.

The $468 million (R4.9 billion) mission will study the main driver of climate change emitted from smokestacks. Some of the carbon dioxide is absorbed by trees and oceans, and the rest moves into the atmosphere, trapping the sun's heat and warming the planet.

But atmospheric CO2 levels fluctuate with the seasons and in different regions of the Earth. The natural and human activities that cause the changes are complicated.

The Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2, or OCO-2, will take a detailed look at most of the Earth's surface to identify places responsible for producing or absorbing the greenhouse gas.

"This will allow us to understand what is controlling how much carbon is absorbed," Anna Michalak, a scientist at the Carnegie Institution for Science who is not part of the mission, said.

The mission, designed to last two years, could provide data that will help scientists making predictions about future CO2 levels and their impact. - Sapa-AP

The Mercury

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Source: Mercury, The (South Africa)

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