NASA’s Aqua Satellite and Its Contributions to Earth Science and Applications

Claire Parkinson

Measuring water on the earth … approx 70% of earth’s surface using 6 instruments

Different instruments serve different purposes in order to measure various ranges in the electro-magnetic spectrum

Carbon dioxide is second most important greenhouse gas on the earth (first is water vapor) … “we know humans are greatly contributing to the increase… it’s clear that industrialization and land use has led to carbon dioxide concentration rising”

Keeling Curve from 1960 to 2010 shows increase over time, as well as the annual cycle because of vegetation in northern hemisphere – AIRS data from 2002 until today confirms Keeling Curve showing Mauna Loa data is confirmed on a global level

NASA runs multiple missions collecting data in order to validate the information (ground measurement compared with satellite measurement)

MODIS tool has such good resolution, can view forest fires, oil slicks, water, vegetation, etc. – very easy to view changes over time

Aqua enables data to be collected to anyone who points a direct broadcast receiving system at the satellite; has gotten far more reception than expected when launched (collects over 89 gigs of data per day)


Are the satellites powerful enough to read the name on a golf ball? No, Aqua and Terra have nowhere near that resolution (MODIS resolution is the best – gets down to 250 meters)

Where to google maps get their data? They use a lot of NASA stuff, but they use other sources as well.

Can we retrieve the satellites? They are far higher than where the shuttle goes – we can’t actually retrieve them.  But we don’t let them decay and add to space debris. Therefore the amount of fuel is calculated so that at the end of its life, the satellite will descend to a point where they will decay and pieces will safely fall to earth. Earlier satellites were launched without that plan in mind, but now all NASA launches must have a plan for safe descent.