All Missions & Projects - Sciences and Exploration Directorate ( 600 )

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A rendering of the CAESAR spacecraft (credit: NASA)

Comet Astrobiology Exploration Sample Return (CAESAR)

CAESAR seeks to return a sample from 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, a comet that was successfully explored by the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft, to determine its origin and history.
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7km GEOS-5 Nature Run (7km-G5NR)

The GEOS-5 Nature Run (Ganymed Release) is a 2-year global, non-hydrostatic mesoscale simulation for the period June 2005 through May 2007 with a 7 km horizontal resolution. In addition to standard meteorological parameters (wind, temperature, moisture, surface pressure), this simulation includes 15 aerosol tracers (dust, seasalt, sulfate, black and organic carbon), O3, CO and CO2.

This model simulation is driven by prescribed sea-surface temperature and sea-ice, daily volcanic and biomass burning emissions, as well as high-resolution inventories of anthropogenic sources.

Absolute Radiometer for Cosmology, Astrophysics, and Diffuse Emission (ARCADE)

ARCADE is a high altitude balloon payload designed to study the early universe. It measured the frequency spectrum of the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) at centimeter wavelengths, to search for signals from the first stars to form after the Big Bang. ARCADE's science goals were to observe the formation of structure from the first stars and galaxies, search for particle physics relics from the Big Bang, and understand the large-scale structure and energetics of our Galaxy. ARCADE flew in 2001, 2003, 2005 and 2006.
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ACE Cosmic Ray Isotope Spectrometer (CRIS)

The Cosmic Ray Isotope Spectrometer (CRIS) measures the abundances of galactic cosmic ray isotopes.

ACE Solar Isotope Spectrometer (SIS)

The Solar Isotope Spectrometer provides isotopically resolved measurements of the elements from lithium to zinc over the energy range 10 - 100 MeV/nucleon. The SIS dectector system consists of two identical telescopes composed of stacks of large-area solid-state detectors.

Active Cavity Radiometer Irradiance Monitor (ACRIMSAT)

The purpose of the Active Cavity Radiometer Irradiance Monitor III (ACRIM III) instrument is to study total solar irradiance, which is the sun's combined energy output at all wavelengths. The ACRIM III instrument package is flying on a spacecraft called ACRIMSAT. The spacecraft was launched on December 20, 1999 as a secondary payload on a Taurus launch vehicle. ACRIM III, third in a series of long-term solar-monitoring tools built for NASA by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, will continue to extend the database first created by ACRIM I, which was launched in 1980 on the Solar Maximum Mission (SMM) spacecraft. ACRIM II followed on the Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS) in 1991.

Active Sensing of CO2 Emissions over Nights, Days, and Seasons (ASCENDS)

The ASCENDS mission will make global atmospheric column carbon dioxide (CO2) measurements without a seasonal, latitudinal, or diurnal bias. The mission will also measure ambient air pressure and temperature. The measurements made by ASCENDS will allow the mission to: 1) quantify global spatial distributions of atmospheric CO2 on scales of weather models in the 2010-2020 era; 2) quantify the current global spatial distribution of terrestrial and oceanic sources and sinks of CO2 on 1x1 degree grids at weekly resolution; and 3) provide a scientific basis for future projections of CO2 sources and sinks through data-driven enhancements of Earth system process modeling.
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Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE)

The Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE) studies energetic particles from the sun as well as sources within and outside our galaxy. ACE observations contribute to our understanding of the formation and evolution of the solar system as well as the astrophysical processes involved. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center provided detectors and telescopes for several of ACE's instruments. The mission launched in 1997.
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Advanced Earth Observing Satellite (ADEOS)

The Advanced Earth Observing Satellite (ADEOS), Japanese name MIDORI, was the first international space platform dedicated to Earth environmental research. It was developed and managed by the National Space Development Agency of Japan (NASDA). The TOMS (Total Ozone Mapping Spectrometer) instrument, along with NSCAT (a NASA spectrometer designed to study wind speed and direction) were the major US components of the platform. ADEOS launched on August 17, 1996 into a sun-synchronous subrecurrent orbit of an altitude of approximately 830 km by an H-II launch vehicle from the Tanegashima Space Center. After an equipment malfunction, NASDA declared the spacecraft and the two NASA instruments aboard lost on June 30, 1997.

Advanced Earth Observing Satellite - SeaWinds (ADEOS II)

The ADEOS II mission was an international satellite mission led by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) - formerly the National Space Development Agency (NASDA) of Japan - with U.S. (NASA) and French Centre Nationale d'Etudes Spatiales (CNES) participation. Midori-II is the Japanese name for the mission.
Illustration of AdEPT

Advanced Energetic Pair Telescope (AdEPT)

AdEPT is a space observatory that will probe the medium-energy gamma-ray band (5 - 200 MeV) with unprecedented sensitivity and high angular resolution, allowing for detailed observations in this energy band for the first time. The AdEPT telescope will also, for the first time, have the capability to detect polarization at MeV energies. This capability will provide new probes of the structures of astrophysical sources, such as blazars, star-forming galaxies, gamma-ray binaries, gamma-ray bursts, pulsars, and magnetars, as well as tests of fundamental physics such as quantum gravity models. Thus, AdEPT will explore new scientific and technological frontiers of gamma-ray astrophysics. Launch is anticipated in 2020.
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Artist's concept of AMSR-E

Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer for EOS (AMSR-E)

The Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer for EOS (AMSR-E) is a twelve-channel, six-frequency, total power passive-microwave radiometer system. It measures brightness temperatures at 6.925, 10.65, 18.7, 23.8, 36.5, and 89.0 GHz. Vertically and horizontally polarized measurements are taken at all channels. The Earth-emitted microwave radiation is collected by an offset parabolic reflector 1.6 meters in diameter that scans across the Earth along an imaginary conical surface, maintaining a constant Earth incidence angle of 55° and providing a swath width array of six feedhorns which then carry the radiation to radiometers for measurement. Calibration is accomplished with observations of cosmic background radiation and an on-board warm target. Spatial resolution of the individual measurements varies from 5.4 km at 89.0 GHz to 56 km at 6.9 GHz.
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Advanced Satellite for Cosmology and Astrophysics (ASCA)

The Advanced Satellite for Cosmology and Astrophysics (ASCA), formerly Astro-D, was Japan's fourth X-ray astronomy mission. ASCA carried four X-ray telescopes and was optimized for X-ray spectroscopy. The spacecraft conducted more than 3,000 observations covering a broad range of astronomical objects. These included supernova remnants, galaxies and galaxy clusters, X-ray binary stars, active galactic nuclei, and variable stars. The satellite was successfully launched in February 1993. After suffering damage on July 14, 2000 during a geomagnetic storm, ASCA reentered the atmosphere on March 2, 2001, after more than 8 years in orbit.

Advanced Technology Large-Aperture Space Telescope (ATLAST)

The Advanced Technology Large Aperture Space Telescope (ATLAST) is a NASA strategic mission concept study for the next generation of UVOIR space observatory. ATLAST will have a primary mirror diameter in the 8m to 16m range that will allow us to perform some of the most challenging observations to answer some of our most compelling astrophysical questions.
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Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere (AIM)

The AIM satellite mission is designed to explore Polar Mesospheric Clouds (PMCs), also called noctilucent clouds, to find out why they form and why they are changing.

Aerosol - Cloud - Ecosystems (ACE)

The objectives of the ACE mission are to study aerosol and cloud types and properties and measure ocean productivity in the surface ocean layers. Data from ACE will improve climate models and air-quality forecasts and will be used in the prediction of climate change.

AErosol RObotic NETwork (AERONET)

The AERONET (AErosol RObotic NETwork) program is a federation of ground-based remote sensing aerosol networks established by NASA and PHOTONS (PHOtométrie pour le Traitement Opérationnel de Normalisation Satellitaire; Univ. of Lille 1, CNES, and CNRS-INSU) and is greatly expanded by networks (e.g., RIMA, AeroSpan, AEROCAN, and CARSNET) and collaborators from national agencies, institutes, universities, individual scientists, and partners. The program provides a long-term, continuous and readily accessible public domain database of aerosol optical, microphysical and radiative properties for aerosol research and characterization, validation of satellite retrievals, and synergism with other databases. The network imposes standardization of instruments, calibration, processing and distribution.

Airborne Cloud Physics Lidar (CPL)

The Cloud Physics Lidar is an airborne lidar system designed specifically for studying clouds and aerosols using the ER-2 High Altitude Aircraft. Because the ER-2 typically flies at 65,000 feet (20 km), its instruments are above 94% of the earth's atmosphere, thereby allowing ER-2 instruments to function as spaceborne instrument simulators. The Cloud Physics Lidar provides a unique tool for atmospheric profiling and is sufficiently small and low cost to include in multiple instrument missions.

Airborne Earth Science Microwave Imaging Radiometer (AESMIR)

The Airborne Earth Science Microwave Imaging Radiometer (AESMIR) is a passive microwave airborne imager covering the 6-100 GHz bands that are essential for observing key Earth System elements such as precipitation, snow, soil moisture, ocean winds, sea ice, sea surface temperature, vegetation, etc.

Airborne Topographic Mapper (ATM)

The Airborne Topographic Mapper (ATM) is a scanning LIDAR developed and used by NASA for observing the Earth’s topography for several scientific applications, foremost of which is the measurement of changing arctic and antarctic icecaps and glaciers. It typically flies on aircraft at an altitude between 400 and 800 meters above ground level, and measures topography to an accuracy of better than 10 centimeters by incorporating measurements from GPS (global positioning system) receivers and inertial navigation system (INS) attitude sensors.

Airborne Tropical TRopopause EXperiment (ATTREX)

A multi-year airborne science campaign to study the humidity and chemical composition of air entering the tropical tropopause layer of the atmosphere.

All-sky Medium Energy Gamma-ray Observatory (AMEGO)

AMEGO, the All-sky Medium Energy Gamma-ray Observatory, is an Astrophysics Probe mission concept designed to explore the MeV sky. AMEGO will consist of four hardware subsystems: a double-sided silicon strip tracker with analog readout, a segmented CZT calorimeter, a segmented CsI calorimeter and a plastic scintillator anticoincidence detector. AMEGO provides three new capabilities in MeV astrophysics: sensitive continuum spectral studies, polarization, and nuclear line spectroscopy. The primary optimization for AMEGO is continuum sensitivity across a broad energy range.
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Application Controlled Parallel Asynchronous Input/Output (Asynch I/O)

An MPI-based Parallel Asynchronous I/O (PAIO) software package that enables applications to balance compute and I/O resources directly


Aqua (Latin for water) is a NASA satellite mission designed to collect information about Earth's water cycle. Aqua's six instruments collect a variety of global data on ocean evaporation, atmospheric water vapor, clouds, precipitation, soil moisture, sea ice, land ice, and snow cover on the land and ice. Additional variables that Aqua measures include radiative energy fluxes; aerosols; vegetation cover on the land; phytoplankton and dissolved organic matter in the oceans; and air, land, and water temperatures. Aqua was launched on May 4, 2002.
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Aquarius is a focused satellite mission to measure global sea surface salinity that launched on June 10, 2011. Its instruments will measure changes in sea surface salinity equivalent to about a "pinch" (i.e., 1/6 of a teaspoon) of salt in 1 gallon of water. By measuring sea surface salinity over the globe with such unprecedented precision, Aquarius will answer long-standing questions about how our oceans respond to climate change and the water cycle. For example, monthly salinity maps will give clues about changes in freshwater input and output to the ocean associated with precipitation, evaporation, ice melting, and river runoff. Aquarius data will also be used to track the formation and movement of huge water masses that regulate ocean circulation and Earth's climate.
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