NASA’s latest near-billion-dollar climate-monitoring satellite, PACE, was successfully launched on Thursday by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida at 0133 EST (0633 UTC). The Plankton, Aerosol, Climate, ocean Ecosystem spacecraft is set to study how microscopic plankton and aerosol particles are impacted by global warming.
PACE’s primary payloads include a spectrometer to measure the intensity of light, and Multi-angle Polarimeters to measure the polarization of sunlight as it passes through clouds, aerosols, and the ocean. These tools will allow scientists to probe the size and composition of particles that can impact weather and study the complexity of interactions between the ocean and the atmosphere.
The color of oceans can reveal a wealth of information about phytoplankton levels in surrounding areas. By analyzing this data, scientists can better understand changes in temperature and oxygen levels. This tiny algae can form huge dense blooms observable from space, making it an important factor in climate change research.
Even though PACE was first proposed decades ago, its journey to space was slow due to several delays. However, in 2018, it faced funding cuts from the Trump administration. But Congress came through with funding of around $964 million for this mission. These missions are supporting the Biden-Harris Administration’s climate change agenda and are vital in answering urgent questions about our changing climate.
Mission control was able to establish communication with the satellite following the launch. With this success PACE will begin its mission to help us better understand global warming’s impact on marine ecosystems.