SMAP Set to Investigate Earth

January 28th, 2015 by Kate Ramsayer

IMG_blog_SMAP-briefing

SMAP is ready to go!

The Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) mission, which will map the water content of soils worldwide, passed its “launch readiness review” on January 27. There is also a favorable weather forecast for a launch on January 29. So the SMAP team is ready.

“It has reached the point where it’s an amazing energy rush right now,” said Christine Bonniksen, SMAP program executive. “It’s kind of like when you’re listening to Beethoven’s 6th symphony, when you’re getting to the big crescendo, and everybody can feel it coming. It’s amazing to watch all these folks buckle down.”

Bonniksen spoke at a press briefing marking two days before the scheduled launch. She highlighted the role of SMAP among other missions studying our planet: Once it’s in orbit and operational, SMAP will join 19 other NASA satellites and sensors with an eye on Earth. The start of the SMAP mission also will complete a series of five Earth science launches in the past year.

“We’re really looking forward to the synergism from all these instruments,” she said.

Soil moisture factors into three major cycles of Earth’s environment — water, energy, and carbon — said Dara Entekhabi, SMAP science team lead. The three cycles work together like gears in a clock, linked together by soil moisture and the freezing and thawing of the ground. With SMAP, scientists will improve models of climate and weather forecasting, and better understand the workings of the planet.

“SMAP will peer into the metabolism of Earth’s environment,” Entekhabi said.

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