NASA SATELLITE WITH UM-DESIGNED SOFTWARE SET TO LAUNCH DEC. 16
Contact: Steve Running, Numerical Terradynamic Simulation Group director, (406) 243-6311, [email protected]
MISSOULA — The hopes and dreams of several University of Montana researchers will take flight Thursday, Dec. 16, when NASA launches its Terra research satellite from California's Vandenberg Air Force Base. The launch is scheduled for 11:31 a.m. MST.
Terra is designed to provide daily, detailed information about the Earth's health. The spacecraft is the flagship of NASA's $7.3 billion Earth Observing System – a series of satellites equipped to scan our world from orbit as never before.
UM's Numerical Terradynamic Simulation Group, led by director Steve Running, has used a $7.9 million grant to design software for Terra since 1992. Terra carries five instruments that will operate simultaneously on a single platform. Running's team contributed software for an instrument called MODIS – the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer – which will measure photosynthesis and evapotranspiration on a global scale.
MODIS, built by California's Raytheon Santa Barbara Remote Sensing, will measure atmosphere, land and ocean processes, ocean color, global vegetation, cloud characteristics, temperature and moisture profiles, and snow cover. MODIS will scan the entire surface of the Earth every one to two days at a "moderate resolution" of one-quarter to one kilometer.
"EOS will inaugurate a new generation of Earth remote sensing," Running said. "Software like what was written here at UM will provide users directly with land surface images from EOS. Previous satellites have offered only raw data and required the end user to build the image. This advance should significantly expand the variety of uses society makes of satellites."
EOS satellites such as Terra will allow researchers to monitor how rapidly carbon dioxide and other gases responsible for global temperature change will accumulate in the future. The satellites also will measure changes such as deforestation, desertification, glacial retreat, wildfires, urbanization and more.
"This launch represents a milestone in one of the most significant research projects on the campus of The University of Montana," said UM President George Dennison. "Steve Running has dedicated a considerable portion of his professional life to the development of technology that this launch will make operational in the effort to understand the workings of our global systems."
Running and many of his fellow researchers will watch the launch live at Vandenberg. However, people at UM can see the launch of the Atlas-Centaur II AS expendable launch vehicle during a Live Launch Viewing, to be held from 10:30 to noon in Science Complex Room 428. That room currently is undergoing some construction, and the launch viewing will be moved to a nearby room if the work isn't finished by Dec. 16.
Running has worked with NASA since 1981, when the space agency decided to expand its scientific research team to include scientists such as ecologists. The oft-delayed launch will be the culmination of years of study by UM researchers, but their role with NASA won't end after Terra is in orbit. The University's EOS Training Center – divided into education and natural resource training components – will teach educators and land managers about acquiring and interpreting detailed NASA satellite data for years to come.
For more information about UM's Numerical Terradynamic Simulation Group and updates about the launch status, visit the Web site at http://www.forestry.umt.edu/ntsg.
The above story is based on materials provided by The University Of Montana. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.
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