Aura: A mission dedicated to the health of Earth's atmosphere


On July 15, 2004 at 3:02 a.m., NASA launched the Aura satellite, the third flagship in a series of Earth-observing satellites designed to view Earth as a whole system, observe the net results of complex interactions within the climate system, and understand how the planet is changing in response to natural and human influences. Aura was exclusively designed to study the composition, chemistry, and dynamics of the Earth’s upper and lower atmosphere by employing four instruments on a single platform. Each instrument provides unique and complementary capabilities that will enable daily global observations of Earth’s atmospheric ozone layer, air quality, and key climate parameters.

Aura SatelliteThis artist’s rendering shows the Aura satellite in its orbit roughly 705 km above the Earth just east of the North Carolina coastline. (This image is also available in a higher resolution.) (Image courtesy of Jesse Allen, NASA Earth Observatory/SSAI).

Over its six-year life span, Aura will provide high-quality data to help answer these important questions regarding the health of Earth’s atmosphere:

  • Is the stratospheric ozone layer recovering?
  • What are the processes controlling air quality?
  • How is the Earth’s climate changing?

next: Is the stratospheric ozone layer recovering?


by Steve Graham
December 7, 2004