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NASA’s Current Missions In Space

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NASA, the world’s leading space agency, is renowned for its commitment to space exploration and research. With a diverse portfolio of missions, NASA continues to push the boundaries of the understanding of the universe. These missions, each with unique objectives and technologies, contribute significantly to the knowledge of Earth, the solar system, and beyond. This article will delve into some of NASA’s current missions, exploring their objectives, the technologies they employ, and the discoveries they have made. These missions underscore NASA’s dedication to advancing your understanding of the universe and your place within it.

The Aqua Mission


Launched in 2002, the Aqua mission is a major component of NASA’s Earth Observing System (EOS). Named for the Latin word for water, Aqua’s primary mission is to collect data about the Earth’s water cycle, including ocean evaporation, water vapor in the atmosphere, clouds, precipitation, soil moisture, sea ice, land ice, and snow cover. This comprehensive approach allows scientists to study the interconnectedness of Earth’s water system and its impact on climate.

Aqua operates as part of the “A-Train”, a constellation of satellites from multiple international partners that fly in close formation. This allows for coordinated measurements of Earth’s atmosphere and surface. Currently in an extended mission phase, Aqua continues to provide valuable data that contributes to your understanding of climate variability and change.

The Aura Mission

Aura, another key mission in NASA’s Earth Observing System (EOS), was launched in 2004 to study the Earth’s ozone, air quality, and climate. Aura carries four instruments that measure various aspects of Earth’s atmospheric chemistry, including the composition of the ozone layer, air quality, and greenhouse gases.

Like Aqua, Aura is also part of the A-Train satellite constellation, allowing for coordinated measurements that comprehensively view Earth’s atmospheric health. Aura’s data has been instrumental in monitoring the ozone layer’s recovery, tracking changes in air quality, and understanding climate forcing.

The CALIPSO Mission

The Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observation (CALIPSO) mission, launched in 2006, is a joint venture between NASA and the French space agency CNES. CALIPSO uses advanced lidar technology to generate detailed vertical profiles of clouds and aerosols, tiny particles suspended in the atmosphere.

CALIPSO is part of the A-Train satellite constellation, which allows it to make nearly simultaneous measurements with other satellites in the constellation. This coordinated approach provides a unique and comprehensive view of Earth’s atmosphere. The data from CALIPSO has been crucial in improving your understanding of how clouds and aerosols impact the Earth’s climate, weather patterns, and air quality.

The CloudSat Mission

CloudSat, launched in 2006, is a mission dedicated to the study of cloud formation, cloud composition, and cloud impact on climate change. It uses advanced radar technology to provide detailed vertical profiles of clouds, including the quantities of liquid water and ice they contain. This information is crucial for understanding the role of clouds in Earth’s climate system.

As part of the A-Train satellite constellation, CloudSat works in conjunction with other satellites to provide a comprehensive view of Earth’s atmosphere. Its radar technology complements the lidar technology of CALIPSO, allowing for a more complete understanding of cloud properties and processes. The data from CloudSat has been instrumental in improving weather forecasts and climate models.

The CYGNSS Mission

The Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS), launched in 2016, is a constellation of eight small satellites that aim to improve hurricane forecasting by measuring wind speeds over Earth’s oceans. By using GPS signals reflected from the ocean surface, CYGNSS can measure wind speeds in all weather conditions, including those within the heavy rain of a hurricane’s inner core.

CYGNSS is part of NASA’s Earth System Science Pathfinder Program and represents the first complete spaceborne constellation produced by this program. The mission is currently in its extended phase, continuing to provide valuable data that improves your understanding of hurricane formation and intensity prediction.

The DSCOVR Mission

The Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR), launched in 2015, is a mission that monitors changes in the Earth’s climate and provides real-time solar wind monitoring capabilities. Located at the first Lagrange point (L1), DSCOVR maintains a constant view of Earth’s sunlit side, allowing for continuous observations of Earth’s full disk.

DSCOVR is an inter-agency partnership between NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the U.S. Air Force. The mission’s data is crucial for accurate weather forecasts, climate monitoring, and space weather alerts and forecasts.

The EMIT on ISS Mission

The Earth Surface Mineral Dust Source Investigation (EMIT) is an instrument hosted on the International Space Station (ISS). Launched in 2020, EMIT aims to map the mineral composition of arid and semi-arid regions of our planet to understand how dust emissions impact the climate.

EMIT is part of NASA’s Earth System Science Pathfinder Program. The mission uses a hyperspectral imager to identify minerals in dust source regions, helping scientists understand how these dust particles affect the Earth’s energy balance and climate.


The ECOsystem Spaceborne Thermal Radiometer Experiment on Space Station (ECOSTRESS) was launched at the International Space Station (ISS) in 2018. ECOSTRESS measures the temperature of plants and uses that information to better understand how much water plants need and how they respond to stress.

ECOSTRESS is part of NASA’s Earth System Science Pathfinder Program. The mission provides critical information about plant health, water use efficiency, and the responses of agricultural and natural ecosystems to water availability and environmental stress.

The Bottom Line

NASA’s current missions continue to push the boundaries of your understanding of Earth and space. From studying the Earth’s water cycle to monitoring the health of the planet’s vegetation, these missions provide invaluable data that informs our understanding of climate change, weather prediction, and environmental health. As we look to the future, NASA’s ongoing commitment to space exploration and research promises to yield even more discoveries that will deepen our understanding of the universe and our place within it.