Share This Page

NASA will study carbon emissions using twin of satellite that crashed

| Monday, June 30, 2014, 9:09 p.m.

LOS ANGELES — Five years after a NASA satellite to track carbon dioxide plunged into the ocean after liftoff, the space agency is launching a carbon copy — this time on a different rocket.

The $468 million mission is designed to study the main driver of climate change emitted from smokestacks and tailpipes. Some of the carbon dioxide is sucked up by trees and oceans, and the rest is lofted into the atmosphere, trapping the sun's heat and warming the planet.

But atmospheric CO2 levels fluctuate with the seasons and in different regions of the Earth. The natural and human activities that cause the changes are complicated. The Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2, or OCO-2 for short, will be able to take an ultra-detailed look at most of the Earth's surface to identify places responsible for producing or absorbing the greenhouse gas.

“This will allow us to understand what processes are controlling how much carbon is absorbed in a given time and place,” Anna Michalak, a scientist at the Carnegie Institution for Science who is part of the mission team, said in an email.

The mission, designed to last two years, could provide data that will help scientists making predictions about future carbon dioxide levels and their impact.

NASA suffered a major scientific — and financial — disaster in 2009 when a rocket carrying the original satellite plummeted into the waters off Antarctica minutes after soaring from Vandenberg Air Force Base along the central California coast.

After the loss, engineers went back to the drawing board and built a near-identical twin that was set to launch before dawn on Tuesday.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.