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Air-LUSI takes off aboard an ER2 out of NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Palmdale, CA for an airborne campaign to measure the Moon from Nov. 13 – 17, 2019. Credits: NASA Photo / Ken Ulbrich

New Moon-Seeking Sensor Aims to Improve Earth Observations

A new instrument with its eye on the Moon is taking off aboard a high-altitude NASA plane to measure the Moon’s brightness and eventually help Earth...

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Views from NASA's Methane Source Finder, a tool that provides methane data for the state of California. The data are derived from airborne remote-sensing, surface-monitoring networks and satellites and are presented on an interactive map alongside infrastructure information. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

A Third of California Methane Traced to a Few Super-Emitters

NASA scientists are helping California create a detailed, statewide inventory of methane point sources - highly concentrated methane releases from sin...

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The tongue of Antarctica’s Dibble Glacier, as seen from the first flight of IceBridge’s final polar campaign. Credit: John Sonntag/NASA

IceBridge Takes Flight from Down Under

IceBridge has been gathering data on Arctic and Antarctic ice sheets, glaciers and sea ice for 10 years. It was designed to ‘bridge the gap’ in be...

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NASA’s P-3B science aircraft is fitted with remote-sensing instruments to measure a number of variables within and near clouds, including those related to precipitation and cloud droplets as well as aerosol size and composition. Credits: NASA

Philippine Airborne Campaign Targets Weather, Climate Science

Led by NASA, the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) and the Manila Observatory in conjunction with the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astro...

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Researchers dig out and measure a block of soil in Saskatchewan, Canada, during a field expedition for NASA’s ABoVE campaign. Soils in the Arctic and boreal regions have very thick organic mats that release large quantities of carbon to the atmosphere when a wildfire burns them. Credits: Sander Veraverbeke

NASA Studies How Arctic Wildfires Change the World

Wildfires in the Arctic often burn far away from populated areas, but their impacts are felt around the globe. From field and laboratory work to airbo...

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2019 NASA Student Airborne Research Program (SARP) students, mentors and faculty pose in front of the NASA DC-8 airborne laboratory. Credits: Megan Schill / NASA SARP

Student Airborne Research Program Takes Flight over California

Twenty-eight undergraduate students are participating in an eight-week NASA airborne science field experience this summer that will immerse them in th...

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NASA’s ER-2 aircraft, based at Armstrong Flight Research Center in Palmdale, California, flies above the Thomas Fire in Ventura County, California, on Dec. 7, 2017. The aircraft was equipped with instrumentation to observe and measure everything from smoke aerosols to the combustion process as fuel burns and fire temperatures. The ER-2 will also make those observations and more during this year’s Fire Influence on Regional to Global Environments and Air Quality (FIREX-AQ) campaign. Credits: NASA/Tim William

Through Smoke and Fire, NASA Searches for Answers

This summer, NASA is embarking on several field campaigns across the world to investigate longstanding questions surrounding fire and smoke. Aircraft ...

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About the Airborne Science Program

The Airborne Science Program within the Earth Science Division is responsible for providing aircraft systems that further science and advance the use of satellite data. The primary objectives of this program are to:

  • Satellite Calibration and Validation
    Provide platforms to enable essential calibration measurements for the Earth observing satellites, and the validation of data retrieval algorithms.
  • Support New Sensor Development
    Provide sub-orbital flight opportunities to test and refine new instrument technologies/algorithms, and reduce risk prior to committing sensors for launch into space.
  • Process Studies
    Obtain high-resolution temporal and spatial measurements of complex local processes, which can be coupled to global satellite observations for a better understanding of the complete Earth system.
  • Develop the Next-Generation of Scientists and Engineers
    Foster the development of our future workforce with the hands-on involvement of graduate students, and young scientists/engineers in all aspects of ongoing Earth science investigations.

To meet these observing objectives ASP maintains and operates a suite of sustained, ongoing platforms and sensors on which investigators can rely from year to year. From these known capabilities the Science Mission Directorate can develop observing strategies. However, an ongoing capability will be resource-constrained and eventually technology-constrained, so that not all observing requirements will be met with the limited core capability. Therefore the program facilitates access to other platforms or sensors on a funds-available, as-needed basis, to accommodate unique and/or occasional requirements. The Program also looks for new or evolving technologies to demonstrate their applicability for Earth science. Depending on the success of the demonstrations and the observing needs, the core capability is expected to evolve and change over time. The speed and extent of change will be balanced against the need for established, known capabilities for long-term planning.