Apr. 20, 2000 April 19, 2000 -- After a picture-perfect launch into space last December, NASA's premier Earth Observing System Satellite, Terra, has completed on-orbit checkout and verification and is "open for business."
Terra, an international mission and part of NASA's Earth Sciences Enterprise, is opening a new window to the Earth and is providing daily information on the health of the planet. First images from the five instruments aboard Terra are being presented during a press briefing today at NASA Headquarters, Washington, DC.
Terra is the first satellite to monitor daily -- and on a global scale -- how the Earth's atmosphere, lands, oceans, solar radiation and life influence each other. Terra's wide array of measurements will give a comprehensive evaluation of the Earth as a system and will establish a new basis for long-term monitoring of the Earth's climate changes.
"Terra is measuring and documenting the Earth's vital signs, many of them for the first time," said Dr. Yoram Kaufman, Terra Project Scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD. "Like our taking vital signs to check the state of our own health, these data will help us diagnosis several key aspects of the Earth's health.
"The data will help us understand our planet, aid in our distinguishing between natural and human-induced changes, and show us how the Earth's climate affects the quality of our lives."
NASA scientists today revealed several stunning images from individual Terra sensors of the North American continent shown in many different layers. Images included global surface temperatures and "spring greening." Other first images range from the Indian sub-continent -- showing relationships among population concentrations, air pollution and vegetation -- to concentrations of carbon monoxide in the lower atmosphere.
"Terra data, along with other measurements from surface-based and aircraft instruments, provide much-needed inputs for Earth science models," Kaufman concluded. "This ultimately will enable scientists to more accurately predict future climate change."
Many scientists believe that to successfully build predictive computer models of complex Earth interactions they must clearly understand global climatic processes and parameters. The Terra team estimates that the scientific community will complete the first Earth-system models making full use of Terra data by 2005.
The Earth Observing System series spacecraft are the cornerstone of NASA's Earth Science Enterprise, a long-term coordinated research effort to study the Earth as a global system and the effects of natural and human-induced changes on the global environment. Terra will use its position in space to observe the Earth's continents, oceans and atmosphere with unprecedented measurement accuracy and capability. This approach enables scientists to study the interactions among these three components of the Earth system, which determine the cycling of water and nutrients on Earth.
NASA plans to encourage widespread use of Terra information to allow citizens, businesses and governments to make more informed decisions on national issues affecting every American -- health and safety, economic well-being, and qualify of life in communities across the Nation.
The Earth Science Enterprise goal is to expand knowledge of the Earth system from the unique vantage point of space. Earth Science Enterprise data, which will be distributed to researchers worldwide at the cost of reproduction, are critical to informed environmental decisions.
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