NASA splurges $270 million to keep a tab on CO2 levels
If you are vary about the facts and the figures that are reported by various bodies to warn us about the dangerous levels of toxics in our environment then watch out for an assured source in the near future. To keep a tab on the CO2 levels, precisely, NASA is gearing up for a new mission called the Orbital Carbon Observatory (OCO). Scheduled for 2009, it will take care of the complicated task of measuring carbon dioxide in our environment. Synchronizing with the sun, OCO will fly over the planet in a 483-mile-high orbit in 16-day cycles.
The OCO will utilize three high-resolution spectrometers to study sunlight reflected off the Earth at the precise wavelengths that indicate the presence of carbon dioxide and molecular oxygen. The observatory is sensitive enough to distinguish CO2 columns within an area as small as three square kilometers. The program’s goal is to locate areas with CO2 concentrations less than 1 part per million different than background levels, which are typically about 383 parts per million.
Though cloudy days may be a hindrance, over a time, scientists expect to gather enough data to identify sources of CO2 and absorption spots, called sinks. The spacecraft will store the data and transmit the information once each day to a collecting station in Alaska. From there it will be sent to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland for processing, with analysis taking place at JPL and other locations.
Scheduled to shoot in to the space on January 30 from California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base, the observatory, along with its launch on an Orbital Sciences’ Taurus booster and two years of operation, are expected to cost NASA about $270 million.