Artist's rendering of NASA's Aqua Satellite Orbiting Earth
NASA’s latest Earth Observing System (EOS) satellite — Aqua — successfully launched Saturday morning, May 4, 2002. Aqua is dedicated to advancing scientific understanding of Earth’s water cycle and environment. Launching the Aqua spacecraft marks a major milestone in support of NASA’s mission to help us better understand and protect our planet.
The Aqua spacecraft lifted off from the Western Test Range of Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., aboard a Delta II rocket at 2:55 a.m. PDT. Spacecraft separation occurred at 3:54 a.m., inserting Aqua into a 438-mile (705-kilometer) orbit.
The Atmospheric Infrared Sounder, AIRS, in conjunction with the Advanced Microwave Sounding Unit, AMSU, sense emitted infrared and microwave radiation from the Earth to provide a three-dimensional look at Earth's weather and climate. Working in tandem, the two instruments make simultaneous observations all the way down to the Earth's surface, even in the presence of heavy clouds. With more than 2,000 channels sensing different regions of the atmosphere, the system creates a global, 3-dimensional map of atmospheric temperature and humidity, cloud amounts and heights, greenhouse gas concentrations, and many other atmospheric phenomena. The AIRS and AMSU fly onboard NASA's Aqua spacecraft and are managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, under contract to NASA. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.
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How to get the AIRS data