NASA’s 4-year climate mission launches

NASA has launched its space-based climate research project, PACE.

The mission will see the PACE (short for Plankton, Aerosol, Climate, ocean Ecosystem) satellite study microscopic ocean life and airborne particles as part of an extensive monitoring program until mid-2028.

On board the satellite are three devices – a spectrometer and two polarimeters. Together they will be responsible for recording the mission’s data and relaying it back to the science team.

A drawing of a satellite above earth. It has one 'wing' outwards and is small and cube shaped.
An illustration of the PACE satellite. Credit: NASA GSFC

The Ocean Colour Instrument is the primary apparatus on the PACE satellite. It’s a next-generation spectrometer that will measure light across the ultraviolet to near-infrared ranges to observe the coverage and abundance of phytoplankton distributed in the world’s oceans thanks to the interactions between sunlight and chlorophyll embedded in this microscopic plant life.

The two polarimeters will measure polarisation as sunlight hits tiny atmospheric particles and is bounced back into space. The data gathered from these observations will allow NASA to interpret the interactions between aerosols and cloud particles and develop extensive information on global air quality.

In all, the data quality from PACE will be superior to prior missions, making its observations in around 200 colours, compared to other observational satellites that ‘see’ in around 8.

“Observations and scientific research from PACE will profoundly advance our knowledge of the ocean’s role in the climate cycle,” Karen St. Germain, director of NASA’s earth science division said following Thursday’s launch.

“As an open-source science mission with early adopters ready to use its research and data, PACE will accelerate our understanding of the Earth system and help NASA deliver actionable science, data, and practical applications to help our coastal communities and industries address rapidly evolving challenges.” 

PACE’s science team expects to begin analysing data in 1-2 months.  

Sign up to our weekly newsletter

Please login to favourite this article.