Aquarius, NASA's pioneering instrument to measure ocean surface salinity from orbit, launched a year ago (on June 10, 2011) aboard the Argentine Space Agency's Satélite de Aplicaciones Científicas (SAC-D) observatory. Designed to advance our understanding of what changes in the saltiness of the ocean's top layer say about the water cycle and variations in climate, the mission has had a busy first year.
Already, its measurements of global salinity patterns have observed regional features like the freshwater plume gushing from the Amazon River, localized changes in ocean saltiness following a tropical storm, and the salinity structure of large tropical ocean waves that influence global climate patterns.
A new interactive feature on NASA's Global Climate Change website, http://climate.nasa.gov , gives visitors a 'look under the hood' at the Aquarius spacecraft and a chance to meet some of the 'salt sleuths' on the Aquarius team. To take a spin, visit: http://climate.nasa.gov/Aquarius/index.cfm .
Aquarius was built by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.; and the Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. NASA's Launch Services Program, at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, managed the launch. JPL managed Aquarius through its commissioning phase and is archiving mission data. Goddard now manages Aquarius mission operations and processes science data. Argentina's space agency, Comisión Nacional de Actividades Espaciales (CONAE), is providing the SAC-D spacecraft, optical camera, thermal camera with Canada, microwave radiometer, sensors from various Argentine institutions and the mission operations center. France and Italy also are contributing instruments.
For more on the Aquarius mission's first year in orbit, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/aquarius/news/first-year.html . To see recent global ocean salinity maps and movies produced from Aquarius data, visit: http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=78250 . To learn more about the new study of tropical ocean waves produced using Aquarius data, visit: http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA15799 . For more information about Aquarius, see: http://www.nasa.gov/aquarius , http://aquarius.nasa.gov and http://www.conae.gov.ar/eng/principal.html .
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