In a blow to climate science, last Friday a rocket carrying a NASA satellite failed to reach orbit and fell back to Earth. The $424 million Glory climate observation satellite was lost when the rocket’s nose cone did not separate as planned and the satellite failed to make orbit and crashed into the southern Pacific Ocean. Another satellite failed two years ago for similar reasons. Bruce Wielicki, senior scientist for earth science at NASA’s Langley Research Center, observed, “The loss of the Glory satellite is a tragedy for climate science.”
Glory was equipped to examine and analyze the activity of aerosols – particles in the atmosphere — their sources, how long they stay in the atmosphere, and their interaction with sunlight and how these interactions affect Earth’s climate.The satellite’s sensors had the ability to distinguish manmade particles, such as from fertilizer use or tailpipes, from natural ones by measuring reflected light. The data would have been an important advance toward clarifying the argument over how much of climate change is due to human activity.
This quietly dramatic footage from NASA shows the launch and six minutes of the flight before the grim moment when a “flight contingency”, i.e, failure, is announced.
Technological failure is not the biggest threat to advancing climate science. Republicans have urged a cutback on climate science spending along with efforts to weaken the Environmental Protection Agency.
Photo: Still from NASA video via YouTube at