Shutdown imperils NASA’s decadelong ice-measuring campaign

Science | AAAS | 1/18/2019 | Staff
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The spreading effects of the partial U.S. government shutdown have reached Earth’s melting poles. IceBridge, a decadelong NASA aerial campaign meant to secure a seamless record of ice loss, has had to sacrifice at least half of what was supposed to be its final spring deployment, its scientists say. The shortened mission threatens a crucial plan to collect overlapping data with a new ice-monitoring satellite called the Ice, Cloud, and Land Elevation Satellite (ICESat)-2.

The nearly 1-month-long spending impasse between Congress and President Donald Trump, “throws a giant wrench into that long-developed plan,” says John Sonntag, an IceBridge mission scientist at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

NASA - Research - Agencies - Shutdown - IceBridge

NASA, among the many research agencies mostly closed by the shutdown, launched IceBridge in 2009 after the failure of ICESat-1, the agency’s first laser-based ice-monitoring satellite. To fill the gap until ICESat-2 was launched, the agency funded annual aircraft flights over the Arctic and Antarctica. IceBridge scientists sought to match the satellite data by flying similar paths over glaciers and sea ice, using the reflected light of a laser altimeter to measure ice and snow height.

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This year’s 8-week Arctic campaign was set to start 4 March from Thule Air Base in Greenland. But the shutdown has delayed maintenance and outfitting of the aircraft NASA uses—a low-flying P-3 Orion—forcing a later start date.

IceBridge - Time - Flights - Place - Melt

IceBridge could still lose more time. The flights must take place before the melt season, and the P-3 is already scheduled to move to the Philippines immediately after its polar flights for a monsoon-monitoring experiment. As a result, the delay “could...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Science | AAAS
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