NASA's Orbiting Carbon Observatory Arrives at Launch Site

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Yesterday, NASA’s first spacecraft built to study carbon dioxide arrived at its California launch site. After completing final tests, the Orbiting Carbon Observatory will lift off in January 2009. Scientists hope that the observatory’s launch will give us a better understanding of carbon dioxide and Earth’s carbon cycle.

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The observatory should answer key questions about where absorbed CO2 from human emissions is stored, what processes are involved, and whether these processes will continue on their current path.

After launching into 438-mile near-polar, sun-synchronous orbit, the observatory will map the planet every sixteen days and will stay in space for a total of two years. During its orbit, the observatory will use three high-resolution spectrometers to detect the amounts of individual gases in Earth’s atmosphere.

Hopefully, the data gleaned from the observatory will help us better prepare for global warming’s effects— and will likely quiet many skeptics.

Photo Credit: NASA


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