MUMBAI (TIP): In the first-ever mission of its kind which will make 24 measurements each second, Nasa on July 1 launched a flight dedicated to studying atmospheric carbon dioxide, the leading human-produced gas driving changes in the earth’s climate. It will allow scientists to make daily detailed measurements of carbon dioxide at a global level amounting to nearly 100,000 measurements of the gas every day.
To carry out the scientific study, the spacecraft will be positioned 438 miles above earth and the first science observations are expected to begin in 45 days after launch. As the Delta 11 rocket carrying the spacecraft designated as OCO-2 (Orbiting Carbon Observatory) lifted off at 3.30 p.m. (IST) at the Vandenburg Air Base in California, the launch commentator at the mission control centre declared: “OCO-2 will track a greenhouse gas driving changes in the earth’s climate.”
There was just a 30-second launch opportunity on Tuesday afternoon. Nasa explained that the timing had to be precise because OCO-2 will join a constellation of five other international earth observing satellites functioning close to each other and make simultaneous observations of the earth. Had OCO’s launch been too early or late it would have missed the right track. According to Nasa, the mission will produce the most detailed picture to date of natural sources of carbon dioxide as well as what is known as their “sinks” -places on earth’s surface where CO2 is removed from the atmosphere.
The observatory will study how these sources and “sinks” are distributed around the globe and how they change over time. The flight assumes significance because according to Nasa humans release nearly 40 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere annually. The amount, however, varies from nation to nation, but it averages about 5.5 tonnes per person, according to Nasa. It has pointed out that each time a person gets into a car and when gasoline is burnt, it releases carbon dioxide and other compounds into the air disturbing the earth’s climate.