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NASA is launching ICESat-2 to Measure the Height Changes of Earth’s Polar Ice

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NASA will launch into space a laser instrument to measure the changes in the heights of earth’s polar ice. NASA’s Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite-2 or ICESat-2 will measure the average annual elevation change of land ice covering Greenland and Antarctica to within the width of a pencil, capturing 60,000 measurements every second. The mission began back in 2003 and continued in 2009 with NASA’s Operation IceBridge. The NASA advanced laser instrument will reportedly improve upon it.

Michael Freilich, the director of the Earth Science Division in NASA’s Science Mission Directorate said, “The new observational technologies of ICESat-2 – a top recommendation of the scientific community in NASA’s first Earth science decadal survey – will advance our knowledge of how the ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica contribute to sea level rise.” Its Advanced Topographic Laser Altimeter System (ATLAS) measures height.

ATLAS required us to develop new technologies to get the measurements needed by scientists to advance the research. That meant we had to engineer a satellite instrument that not only will collect incredibly precise data, but also will collect more than 250 times as many height measurements as its predecessor. – Doug McLennan, ICESat-2 project manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

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ATLAS will fire hundreds of trillions of photons to the ground in six beams of green light and ATLAS is expected to measure the elevation with minute precision. With the help of ATLAS, ICESat-2 will get a much more detailed view of the ice surface than ICESat.

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