CO2 Observatory in Orbit

July 3, 2014

Fox News:

NASA has launched its first spacecraft devoted to monitoring atmospheric carbon dioxide, the heat-trapping gas thought to be responsible for much of Earth’s recent warming trend.

The space agency’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 satellite (OCO-2) blasted off today (July 2) from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at 5:56 a.m. EDT (2:56 a.m. local time), carried aloft by a United Launch Alliance Delta 2 rocket. The liftoff was originally scheduled for Tuesday (July 1), but a problem with the launch pad’s water system caused a one-day delay.

The satellite will measure carbon dioxide levels in Earth’s atmosphere 24 times every second, revealing in great detail where the gas is being produced and where it is being pulled out of the air — CO2 sources and sinks, in scientists’ parlance. [NASA's OCO-2 Mission in Pictures (Gallery)]

“With the launch of this spacecraft, decision-makers and scientists will get a much better idea of the role of carbon dioxide in climate change, as OCO-2 measures this greenhouse gas globally and provides incredibly new insights into where and how carbon dioxide is moving into, and then out of, the atmosphere,” Betsy Edwards, OCO-2 program executive at NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C., told reporters during a pre-launch press briefing Sunday (June 30).

Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have risen from about 280 parts per million (ppm) before the Industrial Revolution to 400 ppm today, the highest concentration in at least 800,000 years.

Humanity is primarily responsible for this increase, researchers say. The species pumps 40 billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere every year, chiefly by burning fossil fuels such as coal and gasoline; the planet’s natural sinks remove just 20 billion tons annually, on average.

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18 Responses to “CO2 Observatory in Orbit”

  1. dumboldguy Says:

    It’s about time. NASA has been spending too much $$$ and energy politicking about manned space travel in general, missions to Mars and the Moon, and studying what’s going on in the far reaches of the galaxy and universe. Who cares how many “earth-like” planets there may be at distances that cannot be crossed? Who cares what happened in the earliest stages of the “big bang”?

    We need to concentrate on deploying more satellites like this that will allow us to understand what’s going on RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW. The Earth observation satellite inventory is aging, and resources need to be devoted to replacement and augmentation. We know far too little about what’s going on in the oceans as well, and also need to boost spending for NOAA.

    I get more than a bit disturbed when I watch NASA folk and politicians using NASA as a “jobs and facilities maintenance” and “pie in the sky of Mars” propaganda project rather rather than as a vehicle for important research.


  2. […] Fox News: NASA has launched its first spacecraft devoted to monitoring atmospheric carbon dioxide, the heat-trapping gas thought to be responsible for much of Earth's recent warming trend. The spac…  […]

  3. jimbills Says:

    “pie in the sky of Mars”

    People have a notion that if they can think it, they can do it. They’ve watched too much sci-fi. There are a ton of steps and hurdles to accomplish before Mars can be human inhabited, most of it completely undeveloped, and even then it would take decades to build support structures adequate enough to make it self-sustaining and stable. Even after that’s accomplished any mistake in containment or maintenance would be catastrophic.

    I really think a Moon mission has to precede a mission to Mars just to build the necessary expertise and equipment, but Mars is sexier, I guess.

    When I hear Musk or someone else saying we’ll be there next decade I think of this:

    Totally agree that the CO2 observatory is ridiculously overdue and vital. We have our priorities backwards.

    • dumboldguy Says:

      We have no need to ever go to the moon again. We have brought back more than enough very expensive rocks to look at and in put in museums, and going there has already served its main purpose, which was no more than “one upping” the Russians. The best thing that came out of it (mostly inadvertently) was some technologies that could be applied on Earth to other endeavors.

      A manned mission to Mars borders on insanity. A manned Mars mission will be basically a suicide mission, considering the radiation problem and the fact that there can be NO glitches in a months long journey, visit to the planet’s surface, and return to Earth. There is nothing that we can learn about Mars from sending humans that we can’t learn from unmanned missions.

      Sending men to Mars would be nothing more than a massive employment plan for aerospace engineers and a subsidy for aerospace manufacturers, all of whom should instead be getting re-educated and turning their attention to near space and the biosphere (or to designing new generations of safer nuclear reactors).

      There were a number of articles and op-eds on going to Mars in the WashPost some months back—-small “trial balloons” every couple of weeks, and probably meant to influence Congress. The idea seems to be on the back burner for now, where it should remain.

      • jimbills Says:

        I assume you’ve heard about this:
        http://www.deadline.com/2014/03/mars-colony-reality-series-mars-one-lionsgate-television/

        Apparently, the power of reality TV is going to get people to Mars by 2024. 300,000 people have signed up to be sent to Mars on a one-way trip. Sometimes you just have to laugh at humanity.

        All of your points are good – can’t argue with any of them. Recent info on a mission to Mars radiation levels:
        http://www.cnn.com/2013/05/30/us/mars-radiation/

        • dumboldguy Says:

          No, I hadn’t heard about the Lionsgate Mars venture. It tops the others in that it requires EIGHT years of preparation/training for the Marsonauts, and that it really looks more like a social science and psychology experiment rather than a serious plan that will actually launch a vehicle to Mars some day. If it does, it will be a hoax just as some say the moon missions were. It IS laughable only until you consider the fact that all the folks who signed up to go and the ones who will watch this show are all allowed to VOTE—-THAT is not funny.

          The Mars voyage radiation level info is nothing new. There was an article in SciAm some 10 or 15 years ago that covered the same ground, and it spelled out the amount of shielding that would be needed to give the Marsonauts a better than even chance of NOT coming down with cancer and dying within six months of their return (IF they returned). They pointed out that it would be prohibitively expensive to lift the required quantity of lead into orbit and talked about how some had suggested that water could be “mined” on the moon and used as shielding instead—-the capsule would need to be something like 150-200 feet in diameter to hold enough water to be effective. This article you cite looks to be quite accurate as far as it goes, but “tap dances” and obfuscates a bit on laying out the full details.

    • dumboldguy Says:

      “…..it would take decades to build support structures adequate enough to make it self-sustaining and stable….”

      Long before we ever get very far along on going to Mars, we will be forced to devote all our energies and resources to making the EARTH “self-sustaining and stable”. Do NOT invest in any Mars projects—-they will never get off the ground.

  4. strdon Says:

    Why the Oxbridge accent in the video? How about a West Virginia accent, or one from Alabama, east Texas, or Minnesota? Californians have no accent, of course.

  5. Gingerbaker Says:

    NASA’s 2015 budget request: $17.5 billion

    U.S. miltary 2015 budget request: $500 billion

    Annual tax breaks to fossil fuel industry: $52 billion

    And you are arguing that NASA is spending too much money?

    • dumboldguy Says:

      Are you talking to me? I was arguing that NASA is spending far too much of its limited resources on manned space travel and things that are of importance and interest only to scientists in fields that have no practical application to the human condition.

      Did you miss this paragraph?

      “We need to concentrate on deploying more satellites like this that will allow us to understand what’s going on RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW. The Earth observation satellite inventory is aging, and resources need to be devoted to replacement and augmentation. We know far too little about what’s going on in the oceans as well, and also need to boost spending for NOAA”.

      I support a large increase in funding for NASA, NOAA, and any other agencies that do research on man’s impact on the biosphere.


  6. A friend who’s counting on OCO-2 data sent me this link. Enjoy!

    https://directory.eoportal.org/web/eoportal/satellite-missions/o/oco-2

  7. MorinMoss Says:

    Is Fox News sure this isn’t part of a nefarious plan by Obama to round up the freedom -lovers into FEMA camps & nuke them from orbit?

  8. ubrew12 Says:

    There have been 6,800 launches of various payloads since the Space Age began. A minority ended in failure, but every one sought to put a payload into orbit.

    There have been 5 payload fairing deployment system failures since the Space Age began.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Payload_fairing#Mission_failures_caused_by_payload_fairings
    The payload fairing covers the payload while the rocket travels through Earths atmosphere. Once in orbit a simple ‘kick’ is needed to split the fairing into two pieces and send the two pieces away from the rocket and payload. The force needed (since the rocket is then at zero gravity and has no atmospheric loading), is extremely small. Nevertheless, the fairing deployment mechanism is double and even triple redundancy: if the primary mechanism fails, a second mechanism, and even a third (sometimes) is available to make SURE the fairing is jettisoned. But the ACTUAL mechanism that holds the fairing in place is not much more complicated than the mechanism holding your cars hood down while you drive. Hence, that fairing deployment mechanism is designed for MAXIMUM reliability (given the cost of its failure).

    As regards sabotage, a payload fairing can be made to fail with the right access, after the payload is buttoned into the fairing and the fairing is closed. Anyone with access rights within the fairing after that point CAN, with a minor application of super-glue, or duct tape, fail the fairing.

    Note that of the 5 fairing failures since the Space Age began, 3 were on missions whose objective was to study Earth from Space for the purposes of protecting the Environment. TWO of those 3 failures were specifically for studying Earth’s Climate. Cost to the US taxpayer: $1 billion.

    The vast preponderance of launch payloads are military. Second is commercial. Last is civil, and the vast preponderance of civil launches are supportive of MANNED Spaceflight. Payloads designed to study Earth from Space are vanishingly small in percentage, but I’m going to just guesstimate that, out of 6,800 launches since the Space Age began, 50 are designed, specifically, to study Earth’s Climate.

    Statistically, for a payload fairing to fail on a Climate mission is (5/6,800)*(50/6,800)= 0.00054%
    After NASA’s first OCO mission failed by this mechanism, NASA and Orbital Sciences (the launch provider) spent two years and millions of dollars ensuring, by review and redesign, that this never happen again.

    It happened again on the very next launch. The chance of TWO naturally-occurring payload fairing failures on TWO Climate Observing missions is 0.000000029%.

    Given the billions of dollars spent on Climate denial over the last decade or two, and the fact that a payload fairing can be failed with the right access and some SuperGlue, and the extraordinary unlikelihood of a SINGLE fairing failure on a Climate mission, much less TWO: I’m calling foul. This was an intentional failure, twice over. Purpose? To slow down the Scientific ANSWERS that have been overwhelmingly successful in countering the fossil-fueled DOUBT that’s been purchased over the last few decades at such high cost to the fossil corporations.

    • dumboldguy Says:

      I will stand behind you and jump up and down and wave my arms when you call foul. IMO, This is a conspiracy theory that has some legs. Someone needs to look at the bank accounts of all the Orbital Sciences employees who had access to see if there were any large deposits around the failure times (or mortgages paid off, or shiny new cars appearing in driveways). If so, and if any can be traced back to the Kochs and the coal interests, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least.

      Orbital Sciences itself is a bit suspect as well. It has a PAC called ORBPAC, that tends to give $$$$ to WAY more Repuglicans than Democrats, and the few Dems it donates to are in positions of power over NASA or represent states where Orbital Sciences has facilities., An interesting thing is that OS has given substantial sums in 2014 to Rep. Frank Wolf here in VA, who represents the district where OS is headquartered—-since Wolf is retiring, the campaign money is really a goodby “gift” that he can cash in later.

      • ubrew12 Says:

        I don’t want to oversell it, but sometimes when natural probabilities are nonexistent, unnatural causes are indicated. I’ve worked with some of these Engineers: its an insult to the mechanical engineers who design these ‘zero-tolerance-for-failure’ mechanisms to imply they, in the 21st century, cannot get right a simple and multiply-redundant mechanism that was perfected in the 20th. The sad truth is that on ANY launch, this kind of failure cannot happen, by natural means. The idea that it happened not once, but TWICE, on CLIMATE-SCIENCE missions (a vanishingly-small percentage of ACTUAL missions), a full 60 years AFTER the Space Age touched off, really catches my attention. To say that it strains credulity is being generous.


  9. Don’t you just love the imbecile writers for Faux News. The first sentence say it all:

    “…carbon dioxide, the heat-trapping gas THOUGHT to be responsible for much of Earth’s recent warming trend.”

    By the scientific community its not THOUGHT to be – IT IS the main reason for the latest warming. Haven’t they read the IPCC reports? Do they embrace that there is a major consensus within science that human greenhouse gas emissions is the primary cause for all the recent warming.

    I bet they THOUGHT they were doing some great reporting there…


  10. […] The satellite will measure carbon dioxide levels in Earth's atmosphere 24 times every second, revealing in great detail where the gas is being produced and where it is being pulled out of the air — CO2 sources and sinks, …  […]


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