A scientific instrument designed to take the most meaningful snapshot yet of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere is on its way to space, via a lengthy testing detour in Arizona.
On May 9 Jet Propulsion Laboratory workers in La Canada Flintridge sent the instrument, part of NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2, to Gilbert, Ariz., where it will be tested and integrated with the satellite that will house it. NASA plans to launch the OCO-2 from Vandenberg Air Force Base by the summer of 2014.
If all goes according to plan, every day for two years the instrument will take half a million measurements of carbon dioxide -- the most significant greenhouse gas produced by human and natural forces -- over land and sea around the globe. The mission is expected to build a deep, uniform database about carbon dioxide concentrations, patterns of movement and absorption. In a statement, NASA officials said the data may help political and business leaders craft environmental policies.