The mention of NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) usually conjures images of space shuttles, rockets and satellites. After all, that is what the space agency is best known for doing. This year, however, NASA is staying home.
This year NASA will be sending scientists on plenty of cool expeditions, it’s just that the trips will be a little closer to home. At least, they will still be on planet Earth. Still, some of the planned trips will take scientists to some pretty far-flung places, like the Greenland ice sheet and the South Pacific coral reefs.
NASA scientists will be studying how the planet is changing and ways in which humans may be triggering those changes. At least eight major earth-bound studies are planned for this year. Scientists hope to combine knowledge gained from studying the planet from space with knowledge gained from closer inspection. Putting these two perspectives together can provide a more comprehensive picture of any changes that are happening on the planet.
The Greenland project will be studying how the warming ocean is melting the ice sheet from the bottom. This project will use a combination of air surveillance (but not in a space ship) and temperature measurements of the ocean near the ice sheet.
An air quality study planned for Korea will be done in partnership with the Korean government. The goal of this study is to improve the ability to monitor air pollution from space.
One study will look at plankton blooms in the ocean, while another will research the tundra and forests of Canada and Alaska to see what role climate is playing in wildfires, permafrost thawing, wildlife migrations, and even insect populations. Yet another study will track carbon particle movement above the eastern U.S.