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NASA to check ground-level air pollution from space

June 24, 2011 - Washington

NASA has launched a new mission called DISCOVER-AQ to enhance the capability of its satellites to measure ground-level air quality from space.

As part of the mission two NASA research airplanes will fly over thealtimore-Washington region and northeast Maryland this summer to monitor ground-level air pollution.

DISCOVER-AQ stands for Deriving Information on Surface conditions from Column and Vertically Resolved Observations Relevant to Air Quality.

The campaign is one of the five Earth Venture classes of investigations selected last year as part of NASA's Earth System Science Pathfinder program.

The new NASA field campaign will make measurements from aircraft in combination with ground-based observation sites to help scientists better understand how to observe ground-level pollution from space in the future.

"What we're trying to do with DISCOVER-AQ is to fill the knowledge gap that limits our ability to monitor air pollution with satellites," said James Crawford, the mission's principal investigator at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va.

A fleet of Earth-observing satellites, called the Afternoononstellation or "A-train" will pass over the DISCOVER-AQ study area each day in the early afternoon.

The satellites' data, especially from the Aqua and Aura spacecraft, will give scientists the opportunity to compare the view from space with that from the ground and aircraft.

"The A-Train satellites have been useful in giving us a broader view of air pollution than has ever been seen," said Kenneth Pickering, DISCOVER-AQ's project scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

"DISCOVER-AQ will help interpret that data to improve air-quality analysis and regional air-quality models," he added.

Initial test flights are planned for the week of June 27, with up to 14 science flights starting as early as July 1.


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