PACE Mission: Earth’s Oceans and Atmosphere Under Intensive Scrutiny

PACE Mission: Earth's Oceans and Atmosphere Under Intensive Scrutiny | Enterprise Wired

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Source- Wikipedia

A Billion-Dollar Mission Survives Setbacks

In a testament to resilience, the nearly billion-dollar mission to explore Earth’s oceans and atmosphere, known as PACE (Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, ocean Ecosystem), is set to launch from Cape Canaveral’s Space Launch Complex 40 on February 6 at 1:33 a.m. Eastern. Despite multiple cancellation attempts during its development, the mission, carried by a Falcon 9, has persisted and is ready for liftoff.

PACE’s Scientific Payload: A Comprehensive Study of Oceans and Atmosphere

(Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, ocean Ecosystem), carries a suite of three instruments designed to scrutinize the ocean, clouds, and aerosols in the atmosphere. The Ocean Color Instrument (OCI), the primary tool, will provide comprehensive information on ocean color across ultraviolet to infrared wavelengths. Accompanying OCI are the Hyper Angular Research Polarimeter (HARP2) and Spectro-polarimeter for Planetary Exploration (SPEXone), dedicated to collecting data on atmospheric clouds and aerosols while supporting the atmospheric correction of OCI data.

Karen St. Germain, director of NASA’s Earth Science division, expressed excitement about PACE’s potential, stating, “(Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, ocean Ecosystem), is going to so profoundly advance our understanding about how our oceans work and how they are related to the broader Earth system and the changing climate.”

Focus on Phytoplankton and Collaborative Earth Science Missions

PACE’s key focus is studying phytoplankton on the ocean surface, with the ability to differentiate among various species. Jeremy Werdell, (Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, ocean Ecosystem), project scientist, highlighted the mission’s capability to identify harmful and beneficial phytoplankton, providing crucial insights into their distribution and movements. PACE’s data will be complemented by other Earth science missions, such as the Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) spacecraft, offering a comprehensive understanding of ocean dynamics.

Overcoming Budget Hurdles: PACE’s Long, Strange Trip

(Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, ocean Ecosystem), faced numerous challenges, including proposed budget cuts by the Trump administration, with all four fiscal year proposals from 2018 to 2021 seeking its cancellation. Despite these setbacks, Congress consistently rejected the cuts, reaffirming its commitment to the mission. Andy Sayer, PACE atmospheric scientist, emphasized the mission’s importance, stating, “It has been a long, strange trip,” while Karen St. Germain expressed gratitude for the support from the stakeholder community that enabled the company to overcome budgetary obstacles.

As PACE embarks on its mission, scientists anticipate groundbreaking insights into Earth’s oceans and atmosphere, with data contributing to a broader understanding of climate change and environmental dynamics. The mission’s expected design life of three years may extend beyond, offering a prolonged period of scientific exploration.

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