The more we know about our planet, the more we can better understand how we’re both destroying and saving it. Having new data for everything from forestry statistics, to ocean levels, erosion, pollution, and population growth will allow us to evaluate what we’re doing right, and what we can be doing better.
Biomass, the 7th satellite in the Earth Explorer mission, was created for such a purpose; to “weigh” the world’s forests, and provide us with detailed information about our planet. This expedition will shed new light on the damage we’re doing to the Amazon Rainforest, and other large bodies of land.
Discovering updated carbon levels will also help us better understand climate change, and enforce the U.N.’s ‘Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation’. The satellite weighs a slightly-lightweight 1.2 tons. It carries just a single instrument, which will be used to send down a 70cm radar pulse into forest’s canopies and sense the volume of material.
A 12m antenna will be attached to the satellite to receive the pings coming back from the canopies. The antenna will be folded into the Vega launch vehicle, and then unfurled when the satellite reaches orbit.
Right now, the satellite is slated for a 2020 launch. If that seems like quite a bit aways, you aren’t wrong. But the space agency has several large upcoming launches to schedule, including an expedition to explore an asteroid, the launching of a new replacement for the aging Hubble Telescope, and regularly scheduled missions to the ISS.
In essence, the space agency’s plate is full. That doesn’t mean this mission is any less important than the others. And 7 years isn’t really that long of a time to wait to fully map our planet’s forests and carbon levels. We’ve been polluting for the better part of a couple centuries, so a few more years won’t be the tipping point. We’re doing our share right now with the information we have, and this mission can only complement that.
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