NASA’s Plankton, Aerosol, Climate, Ocean Ecosystem (PACE) satellite has been successfully launched into space aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida at 01:33 EST (06:33 UTC). The $1 billion probe is set to study how microscopic plankton and aerosol particles are affected by global warming.
The primary payloads for PACE include a spectrometer that measures light intensity and multi-angle polarimeters that measure the polarization of sunlight as it passes through clouds, aerosols and the ocean. By studying the color of the ocean, scientists can reveal valuable information about surrounding temperatures and oxygen levels. These tiny algae can form massive blooms visible from space.
PACE’s ability to measure different angles of sunlight from UV to shortwave allows researchers to probe the size and composition of particles that affect weather patterns. This will provide invaluable data for further study of the ocean’s role in the climate cycle. The satellite will significantly enhance our understanding of the intricate interactions between the ocean and atmosphere.
Despite being first proposed decades ago, PACE’s journey into space has been delayed due to several factors. In 2018, it faced funding cuts from the Trump administration but Congress received about $964 million in funding. These missions support the Biden-Harris administration’s climate change agenda and are critical in addressing pressing questions about our changing climate.