NASA’s ICESAT- 2
11, Sep 2018
Prelims level : Science & Technology Mains level :
- NASA mission that will use a laser to track changing ice levels on Earth soared into space. Lifting ICESat-2 on a quest to explore the polar ice sheets of our constantly changing home planet.
- The satellite will reveal new insights into the ice in the deep interior of Antarctica, which is area of mystery to scientists.
- The new laser will fire 10,000 times in one second, compared to the original ICE Sat which fired 40 times a second.
- Measurements will be taken every 2.3 feet (0.7 meters) along the satellite’s path.
- “The mission will gather enough data to estimate the annual elevation change in the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets even if it’s as slight as four millimetres – the width of a No. 2 pencil.
- Importantly, the laser will measure the slope and height of the ice, not just the area it covers, also will allow ice sheet modelers to make better predictions of the future,
- It is launched in the background of urgent need of data about ice melt since global average temperatures have climbed year after year, with four of the hottest years in modern times all taking place from 2014-2017.
- The launch marks the first time in nearly a decade that NASA has had a tool in orbit to measure ice sheet surface elevation across the globe.
- The preceding mission, ICE Sat, launched in 2003 and ended in 2009.
- The first ICE Sat revealed that sea ice was thinning, and ice cover was disappearing from coastal areas in Greenland and Antarctica.
- In the intervening nine years, an aircraft mission called Operation Ice Bridge, has flown over the Arctic and Antarctic, taking height measurements of the changing ice.
- But a view from space especially with the latest technology should be far more precise.