NASA’s pollution observatory reaches space

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

CO2 pollution
NASA’s OCO-2 will help scientists understand where Earth’s atmosphere is hardest hit by manmade pollution.

Greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide (CO2) are belched from factories, cars, and other manmade sources, polluting the skies with unhealthy air. These toxic particles then warm the planet by trapping the Sun’s heat like a blanket, leading to climate change and wild weather. Recently, NASA launched its Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) into space to learn where CO2 is being produced on Earth.

The OCO-2 will take 3 weeks to fully get into position, way up high at a distance of 438 miles above our planet. Once there, it will perform over 100,000 measurements of CO2 levels in the Earth’s atmosphere, to better pinpoint problem areas on the surface.

“Scientists currently don’t know where and how Earth’s oceans and plants have absorbed more than half the carbon dioxide that human activities have emitted into our atmosphere since the beginning of the industrial era,” explained David Crisp, science team leader for the OCO-2 at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “For society to better manage carbon dioxide levels in our atmosphere, we need to be able to measure the natural source and sink processes.”

Getting the OCO-2 satellite into space wasn’t easy, especially since 5 years ago an earlier version of the craft was destroyed after a failed launch, resulting in a $209 million loss of equipment! After a delayed launch last week, the OCO-2 successfully blasted off into space from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, soaring skyward on a United Launch Delta II Rocket.

Images courtesy of NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.