NASA will flight-test an instrument using new technologies to measure elements of Earth's atmosphere and to support space research aimed at reducing risks from severe weather. This measurement concept, known as the Geostationary Imaging Fourier Transform Spectrometer, has been selected as the next Earth- observing mission under NASA's New Millennium Program.

The mission -- known as Earth Observing 3 -- will test advanced technologies for measuring temperature, water vapor, wind and chemical composition with high resolution, in space and over time. Such sophisticated measurements have the potential for revolutionary improvements in weather observation and prediction, by providing unique observations of the spectral properties of clouds and the transport of pollutants in the atmosphere.

"In 2003, this space flight demonstration will involve genuinely revolutionary measurement approaches that will have a major impact on Earth system science," said Dr. Ghassem Asrar, associate administrator for Earth science, NASA Headquarters, Washington, DC. "The eventual incorporation of this technology on geostationary weather satellites would provide up-to-the- minute information, never before available, on active severe weather systems, such as hurricanes and tornados.

"These observations will help improve the accuracy of the current three-day weather forecasts and extend the duration of forecasts up to five days during the next decade," Asrar said.

Managed by NASA's Langley Research Center, Hampton, VA, the mission uses an advanced imaging spectrometer based on breakthrough technologies such as a large-area focal-plane array, new data-readout and signal-processing electronics, and passive thermal switching. Today's geostationary satellites observe Earth, its atmosphere and oceans in only a few selected spectral bands. This new instrument will improve observational capabilities to several hundred spectral bands that will provide both additional and more detailed information.

NASA selected this concept from four finalist ideas culled from 24 proposals submitted in response to a NASA research announcement released in September 1997. The theme for the solicitation was to test innovative approaches for observing Earth's surface and atmosphere from positions outside low-Earth orbits, with an emphasis on advanced measurement concepts and technologies.

The selection process was carried out by NASA Headquarters, and included evaluations of each concept study by external peer reviewers. The total NASA cost of the mission, including contribution to launch, is expected to be approximately $105 million.

The first Earth-orbiting mission under the New Millennium Program, Earth Observing 1, is scheduled for launch in spring of 2000. Managed by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD, that mission will demonstrate an advanced land-imager system and hyperspectral imaging technologies that may eventually replace the current measurement approach used by Landsat satellites. Further information on the Earth Observing 1 mission is available on the Internet at .

Created in 1994, the New Millennium Program is designed to identify, develop and flight-validate advanced technologies that can lower costs and enable critical performance of future science missions in the 21st century. The program is managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA, for NASA's Office of Earth Science and Office of Space Science, Washington, DC. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology. Further information on the New Millennium program is available at .

Information about NASA's Earth Science Enterprise, dedicated to understanding how human-induced and natural changes affect the Earth's total environmental system, is available at URL .

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