The latest mission that NASA sets out to explore is Earth itself.
The mission is to understand the complex systems that drive ocean ecology and NASA is going to study Earth's seas all the way from space. The project is called 'PACE' – short for the plankton, aerosols, cloud, ocean ecosystem mission – and will use advanced technologies to measure the diversity of ocean's tiny plant-like organisms called phytoplankton to help scientist better understand how climate change is affecting the environment around us.
PACE's advanced technologies will provide a new insight into the Earth's ocean and atmosphere by revealing the diversity of organisms fulfilling marine food webs and how ecosystems respond to environmental change. Looking at the ocean, clouds and aerosols ( which is small particles in the air) together will improve our knowledge of the roles each plays in our changing planet.
Whilst these technologies won't be used to monitor sea creatures like whales, sharks or fish, it will, however, monitor living organisms such as chlorophyll present in the seawater's bacteria. It will also study pigments found in phytoplankton, microscopic marine algae that are the base of several aquatic food webs. In doing so, scientists will hopefully get the opportunity to map how different variations of phytoplankton capture energy from the sun and carbon from the atmosphere.
PACE's primary sensor, the ocean colour instrument (OCI) is a highly advanced optical spectrometer that will be used to measure properties of light over portions of the electromagnetic spectrum. It will enable continuous measurement of light at finer wavelength resolution than previous NASA satellite sensors, extending key system ocean colour data records for climate studies.
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