PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICE
JET PROPULSION LABORATORY
CALIFORNIA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY
NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION
PASADENA, CALIF. 91109. TELEPHONE (818) 354-5011
Contact: Mary A. Hardin
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASEMay 17, 1996
STUDENTS LAUNCH BUOYS TO VERIFY TOPEX/POSEIDON DATA
Teams of high school and junior high students launched buoys
into Galveston Bay, Texas, to verify altimeter measurements from
the TOPEX/Poseidon satellite in an experiment that will help
oceanographers better understand ocean dynamics and calculate
global sea level rise.
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory-sponsored buoy "float-off"
took place on Wednesday, May 15, in Galveston Bay, near Eagle
Each team of students designed and built their own buoy and
each buoy was equipped with a Global Positioning System (GPS)
receiver which helps the students precisely track its location.
The buoys recorded sea level and wave height measurements along a
track on the water as TOPEX/Poseidon flew overhead. This
information will be used in conjunction with data from several
tide gauges in the area to validate the satellite's performance.
GPS is an array of 24 satellites that was originally
developed by the U.S. Department of Defense. By measuring signals
from these satellites, users can pinpoint their precise location
almost anywhere on Earth.
"It's crucial that we have continuing calibration of the
satellite's altimeter height measurements to help us determine if
the global sea level is rising," said Dr. George Born, a
TOPEX/Poseidon science team member at the University of Colorado,
Boulder. "Locally, verifying the measurements of sea level in
Galveston Bay will prove useful in improving tide models by
providing a reality check."
"Galveston Bay is an ideal site for us to conduct this
experiment. As the TOPEX/Poseidon satellite passes directly over
the center of the bay, there are numerous tide gauges to further
verify the measurements and relatively low waves," said Amy
Neuenschwander of the University of Texas Center for Space
Research (UTCSR). "This bay is Texas' most important coastal
environment, containing natural resources which are self-renewing
as long as the bay remains healthy and productive."
"Improved tide and circulation models will improve the
ability to track pollutants such as oil spills in the bay as well
as improving biological models," Born added. "Hence, the
experiment has the long-term potential of contributing to the
maintenance of a healthy ecosystem in the bay."
The "float-off" is part of an on-going educational outreach
program between JPL, UTCSR and the Texas Space Grant Consortium
(TSGC), in conjunction with the Colorado Center for Astrodynamics
Research (CCAR) and the Colorado Space Grant Consortium (CSGC).
The Texas students are from two Houston area high schools,
Friendswood and Pearland, and one middle school, Seabrook
Intermediate. The Colorado students are from Boulder High School
and the University of Colorado.
TOPEX/Poseidon, a joint program of NASA and the Centre
National d'Etudes Spatiales, the French space agency, uses a
radar altimeter to precisely measure sea-surface height. Launched
in August 1992, the satellite measures the sea-surface with an
unprecedented accuracy of less than 5 centimeters.
TOPEX/Poseidon is part of NASA's Office of Mission to Planet
Earth, a coordinated, long-term research program to study the
Earth as a global system. TOPEX/Poseidon's sea-surface height
data are essential to a better understanding of the role oceans
play in regulating global climate, one of the least understood
areas of climate research.
The Jet Propulsion Laboratory manages the U.S. portion of
the TOPEX/Poseidon mission for NASA.