Aqua NASA Mission

The Aqua NASA mission derived its name from a Latin word ‘Aqua’ which is translated to mean water in English. The main objective of Aqua mission was to monitor Earth’s water and water cycle by collecting data about snow cover on the land and ice, land ice, sea ice, soil moisture, precipitation, water vapor in the clouds, atmosphere, evaporation from the ocean and ocean surface water. In addition to this, Aqua mission measure elements such as water temperature, air land, dissolved organic matter in the oceans, phytoplankton, vegetation cover on the land, atmospheric aerosols and radiative energy fluxes. Through these measurements, Aqua assists the scientists to determine the state of the highly interconnected Earth system hence answering key questions about Earth’s water cycles, radiative balance of the Earth system and full role of clouds in the climate system.

            Aqua mission collects the data by measuring the above parameters using six Earth observing instruments: the AIRS, AMSU-A, HSB, AMSR-E, CERES and MODIS. These instruments have been categorized into two: the AIRS, AMSU-A and HSB combine form a very sophisticated sounding system of the Aqua mission which collects information at varying levels in the atmosphere. While AMSR-E, CERES and MODIS are imagers. In addition, AIRS, CERES and MODIS measures in infrared and visible wavelength. For example, AIRS take measurements at 2378 infrared and 4 visible/near-infrared channels which make it very unique to the Aqua mission, while the AMSR-E, AMSU-A and HSB measures in microwave wavelengths. The integration of these instruments greatly improves the monitoring process.

            Aqua mission spacecraft orbits the Earth at near-polar sun-synchronous orbit at an altitude of 705 km, hence competing the orbit at every 98.8 minutes. Therefore, the mission type of Aqua mission is Space-borne Satellite. The beneficiary of the data and measurements made by Aqua mission are the scientist that are seeking to address the issues of global warming. They include scientists interested in studying degradation of water quality, mid-latitude and tropical deforestation, atmospheric carbon dioxide increases, stratospheric ozone reductions and Artic sea ice decay (Pakinson, 2003). Other beneficiaries of Aqua mission are the forest fire fighters since MODIS provide valuable information that assist the fire fighters to contain the fire. Also, MODIS data have been used in several occasion to observe, monitor and track dust storms in Middle East. In general, Aqua mission provide valuable information about weather forecast to institution and organizations that monitor weather around the globe.

            Although Aqua mission duration was estimated to last for 6 years, review indicated that the mission could extend until the year 2025. Out of the six measuring instruments onboard, only one instrument ceased operating in February 2003 due to anomaly. All the remaining five are in good health, although some failed to operate at their optimal levels. Some of the challenges that have prevented Aqua mission from operating to its optimal level include wear and reduction of fuel from the cells that powers the instruments due to depreciation (Parkinson, 2013). The Aqua mission was equipped with 136 Giga bites recorder which can store the information for two orbits. However, the data is extracted after every orbit via direct downlink or direct broadcast to the station on the ground. Aqua mission orbits at Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) due to measuring instruments onboard. Some of the limiting factors of Aqua mission was the failure of HSB after one year of launch and failure of some of the instruments to function optimally as expected.

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