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NASA weather satellite crashes in Antarctica

By Adriana Stuijt     Feb 24, 2009 in Environment
A $278-million NASA satellite has crashed near Antarctica. The launch in California went as planned. However after the launch, the weather satellite's fairing failed to disengage. This was the first US weather satellite to record greenhouse-gases.
A similar greenhouse-mapping satellite was launched successfully last month by Japan.
NASA says it will be investigating the failure of the satellite to seperate from the rocket. see
NASA confirmed that its Orbiting Carbon Observatory satellite failed to reach orbit after its 4:55 a.m. EST liftoff Feb. 24 from California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base. "Preliminary indications are that the fairing on the Taurus XL launch vehicle failed to separate. The fairing is a clamshell structure that encapsulates the satellite as it travels through the atmosphere. Two previous launch attempts had been aborted.
"The spacecraft did not reach orbit and likely landed in the Pacific Ocean near Antarctica," said John Brunschwyler, the program manager for the company that built the satellite, Orbital Sciences Corporation,. said. A Mishap Investigation Board is to determine the cause of the launch failure" see
He called it a huge disappointment for the science community.
The Voice of America said in its global broadcast today that the $278-million Orbiting Carbon Observatory was the first NASA satellite designed exclusively to answer questions about the distribution and source of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which is largely responsible for global warming. Scientists believe at least 95 percent of carbon dioxide in Earth's atmosphere comes from natural sources, such as animal and plant respiration.
No one is certain exactly where the manmade sources of CO2 are coming from. Scientists were hoping to learn that, and gather other data, beginning with the launch.
The OCO was designed to cover the Earth the every 16 days, using spectrographs to detect sources of CO2 and methane, another greenhouse gas.
Scientists say humans emit eight billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere through fossil fuels and land use, but only half of that remains in the atmosphere.
The rest of the greenhouse gases are absorbed back into the Earth into what scientists call carbon sinks.
So, a key part of the $278 million-mission would have been devoted to understanding the carbon cycle of which sinks are a part, according to mission scientist Anna Michalak.
The satelite's crash is a serious setback for the worldwide scientific research programme which is trying to determine whether or not Global Warming is actually occurring, and exactly what this would be caused by.
More about NASA, Weather satellite, Crash, Antarctica, Greenhouse Gas
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