NASA just launched a vehicle designed to examine all of the water on Earth’s surface. A Falcon 9 rocket launched the International Surface Water and Ocean Topography, or SWOT, mission from Earth.
The mission involves numerous stages. And the first portion of the SWOT mission has now arrived on Earth. SWOT is a collaboration between NASA and the French space agency Centre National d’Études Spatiales.
The mission will attempt to examine the Earth’s water quality and estimate the height of the oceans and freshwater on the planet. Both satellite agencies have separately monitored the global water status. However, using SWOT, the possibility of widening the finding has increased by a factor of two.
“The SWOT spacecraft launched atop a SpaceX rocket from Space Launch Complex 4E at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California with a prime mission of three years. The satellite will measure the height of water in freshwater bodies and the ocean on more than 90% of Earth’s surface. This information will provide insights into how the ocean influences climate change; how a warming world affects lakes, rivers, and reservoirs; and how communities can better prepare for disasters, such as floods,” said NASA in a press release.
“Warming seas, extreme weather, more severe wildfires – these are only some of the consequences humanity is facing due to climate change,” said Bill Nelson, NASA administrator.
“The climate crisis requires an all-hands-on-deck approach, and SWOT is the realization of a long-standing international partnership that will better equip communities so they can face these challenges,” Nelson explained.
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The SWOT project
The findings of the SWOT mission will greatly assist scientists in examining the link between the amount of water on Earth and other water-related phenomena. SWOT, according to NASA, will pave the way for a better understanding of the heat exchange relationship between the Earth’s atmosphere and the ocean. It would also help them explain the thermal acceleration.
“We’re going to be able to see things we just could not see before,” added Benjamin Hamlington from the Sea Leval and Ice Group.
“We’re going to be able to track the movement of water around the Earth between ocean and land, be able to make some of these connections and really understand where water is at any given time. This is critical because we know that the water cycle is accelerating with climate change. What this means is that some locations have too much water, others don’t have enough,” he added.
“We’re eager to see SWOT in action. This satellite embodies how we are improving life on Earth through science and technological innovations. The data that innovation will provide is essential to better understanding how Earth’s air, water, and ecosystems interact – and how people can thrive on our changing planet,” said the director of NASA’s Earth Science Division, Karen St. Germain.
Surveying Earth’s climate
According to NASA, SWOT is the culmination of a long-standing desire for a multi-agency climate initiative. Since the 1980s, NASA and CNES have gathered critical information about the seas. However, the alliance introduces an additional tool to expedite the research further.
“This collaboration pioneered the use of a space-based instrument called an altimeter to study sea level with the launch of the TOPEX/Poseidon satellite in 1992,” explained NASA.
“This mission marks the continuity of 30 years of collaboration between NASA and CNES in altimetry. It shows how international collaboration can be achieved through a breakthrough mission that will help us better understand climate change and its effects around the world,” said the director of the CNES Orbital Systems and Applications, Caroline Laurent.
“SWOT will provide vital information, given the urgent challenges posed by climate change and sea level rise. That SWOT will fill gaps in our knowledge and inform future action is the direct result of commitment, innovation, and collaboration going back many years. We’re excited to get SWOT science underway,” added Jet Propulsion Laboratory director of NASA Laurie Leshin.
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Fulfilling another mission
NASA made progress with its Artemis I mission earlier this month. NASA performed the mission to acquire important information for a future manned flight to the Moon. NASA’s Orion spacecraft completed numerous orbits around the Moon and will return to Earth. However, Orion only has a dummy aboard, mainly constructed to gather information supporting life in space. The Artemis mission will also set out the rocket’s course, which will be identical to future Artemis missions.
“The biggest test after the launch is the reentry because we want to know that that heat shield works at about 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit (2,760 degrees Celsius), almost half as hot as the sun, coming in at 32 times the speed of sound (nearly 40,000 kilometers per hour),” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson.
“Well, for once, I might be speechless. I have talked a lot about appreciating the moment that you’re in. And we have worked hard as a team. You guys have worked hard as a team to this moment. This is your moment,” said Charlie Blackwell-Thompson, the launch director of the mission.
“As we embark on the first Artemis test flight, we recall this agency’s storied past. But our eyes are focused not on the immediate future but out there,” Nelson said months ago.
“It’s a future where NASA will land the first woman and the first person of color on the Moon. And on these increasingly complex missions, astronauts will live and work in deep space. And we’ll develop the science and technology to send the first humans to Mars.”