Monday, November 24, 2008

The Aqua Spacecraft

The Aqua spacecraft will circle the Earth in an orbit that ascends across the equator each day at 1:30 p.m. local time and passes very close to the poles, complementing the 10:30 a.m. measurements being made by Terra, the first of the EOS spacecraft, launched in December 1999. The instrument complement on Aqua is designed to provide information on a great many processes and components of the Earth system, including cloud formation, precipitation, water vapor, air temperature, cloud radiative properties, sea surface temperature, surface wind speeds, sea ice concentration and temperature, snow cover, soil moisture, and land and ocean vegetation.

The individual swaths of measurements will be compiled into global images, with global coverage of many variables being obtained as frequently as every two days or, with the help of numerical models, combined every 6 or 12 hours into comprehensive representations of the Earth's atmospheric circulation and surface properties. In combination with measurements from other polar orbiting satellites, Aqua measurements will also provide accurate monthly-mean climate assessments that can be compared with and assimilated into computer model simulations of the Earth's climate.

The Earth Observing System has three major components: the EOS spacecraft, an advanced ground-based computer network for processing, storing, and distributing the collected data (the EOS Data and Information System); and teams of scientists and applications specialists who will study the data and help users in universities, industry, and the public apply it to issues ranging from weather forecasting and climate prediction to agriculture and urban planning.

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