JPL Missions Chosen for Popular Science Magazine Award

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November 08, 2002

NASA’s unprecedented work in Space Science and Earth Science captured three of Popular Science’s “Best of What’s New Awards” for 2002.

The Mars Odyssey mission and the twin satellites of the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (Grace), managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.; and the Aqua spacecraft mission, managed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., were chosen in the Aviation/Space category. Aqua includes the JPL-managed Atmospheric Infrared Sounder experiment system. Popular Science will feature the 100 winners, chosen in 10 categories, in its December 2002 issue. Popular Science annually reviews thousands of new products and innovations. To win, a product or technology must represent a significant step forward in its category.

Mars Odyssey, part of NASA's Mars Exploration Program, has been in orbit around the red planet for just over one year. In May, mission data astounded the scientific world, pointing to the existence of enormous quantities of water ice just under Mars’ surface. Odyssey is also measuring the radiation environment in low Mars orbit to determine the radiation-related risk to any future human explorers to the planet.

"The Mars Odyssey project is pleased to be recognized by Popular Science," said Roger Gibbs, Mars Odyssey project manager at JPL. "It's an exciting time, as multiple missions are venturing out to unravel the mysteries of the red planet."

Grace is eight months into its mission to precisely measure Earth's shifting water masses and map their affects on Earth's gravity field. A gravity field map, which was created from only 14 days of data, is proving to be substantially more accurate than the combined results of more than three decades of satellite and surface instrument gravity measurements collected before Grace.

"We're very excited by the recognition of Grace as a novel technology for studying Earth system science," said Grace project scientist Dr. Michael Watkins. "What makes it unique is the use of gravity as a new remote sensing tool. We'll basically be using these gravity measurements to see changes in the weight of the water in the ocean and the polar ice sheets, which has never been done before."

“This is a very exciting recognition of a significant advancement in technology and of our scientific understanding of Earth,” said Grace principal investigator Dr. Byron Tapley of the Center for Space Research at the University of Texas in Austin. “The extremely accurate measurements provided by the Grace twin satellites allow us to determine variations associated with the mass exchange between Earth’s atmosphere, ocean and solid earth. These signals are important in understanding global climate change.”

Aqua is the latest in a series of spacecraft dedicated to advancing our understanding of global climate and global change. A central role of Aqua is to gather information about water in Earth's system. Aqua is also gathering information about other Earth variables as well. This information will help scientists all over the world to better understand the global water cycle and better understand the interactions within the climate system. Aqua’s Atmospheric Infrared Sounder spectrometer and its two companion instruments—the Advanced Microwave Sounding Unit and the Humidity Sounder for Brazil--will measure Earth's atmosphere and surface, allowing scientists to improve weather prediction and observe changes in Earth's climate.

"Aqua and its six Earth-observing instruments are doing spectacularly well, and it's a terrific extra bonus to have a magazine like Popular Science recognize this and award Aqua one of these awards,''' said Dr. Claire Parkinson, Aqua Project Scientist.

JPL manages the 2001 Mars Odyssey mission for NASA's Office of Space Science. Investigators at Arizona State University in Tempe, the University of Arizona in Tucson and NASA's Johnson Space Center, Houston, operate the science instruments. Additional science partners are located at the Russian Aviation and Space Agency and at Los Alamos National Laboratories, N.M.

Grace is a joint partnership between NASA and the German Aerospace Center. The University of Texas' Center for Space Research has overall mission responsibility. GeoForschungsZentrum Potsdam, Germany is responsible for the German mission elements. JPL manages the U.S. portion of the project for NASA's Office of Earth Science. Science data processing, distribution, archiving and product verification are managed under a cooperative arrangement between JPL, the University of Texas Center for Space Research and the Geo-Research Center in Germany.

Aqua is a joint project among the United States, Japan and Brazil. Overall management of the Aqua mission is located at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

For more information on Mars Odyssey, see:
http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/odyssey/

For more information on Grace see:
http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/grace/

For more information on Aqua, see:
http://aqua.nasa.gov

For more information on the awards see:
http://www.popsci.com

Contacts: JPL/Colleen Sharkey (818) 354-0372
NASA Headquarters/Elvia Thompson (202) 358-1696
Goddard Space Flight Center/Lynn Chandler (301) 286-2806

2002-206

Images

montage: top left, Aqua satellite; top right, Mars Odyssey; bottom, Grace

Top left, Aqua satellite; top right, Mars Odyssey; bottom, Grace


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