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Orbiting Lab to Watch Earth Breathe

NASA's Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 gets ready for launch at Vandenberg Air Force Base. The spacecraft is perched atop a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket, which will boost it to an orbit around Earth. Image credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
NASA's Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 gets ready for launch at Vandenberg Air Force Base. The spacecraft is perched atop a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket, which will boost it to an orbit around Earth. Image credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

A satellite designed to give climate-change researchers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena a better read on the Earth's production and absorption of carbon dioxide was in orbit today.

"Scientists currently don't know exactly where and how the 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," said David Crisp, leader of the Orbiting Carbon Observatory 2 science team in Pasadena. "Because of this, we cannot predict precisely how these processes will operate in the future as climate changes. For society to better manage carbon dioxide levels in our atmosphere, we need to be able to measure the natural source and sink processes."

The OCO-2, whose mission will last at least two years, was shot into orbit from Vandenberg Air Force Base in Santa Barbara County Tuesday and is expected to start collecting data in about 45 days. Results based on some 100,000 measurements daily are expected in early 2015, according to NASA.

—City News Service

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