The launch of NASA's Earth-observing Terra satellite, bearing state-of-the-art instruments to study interactions between the land, atmosphere, ocean and life on the planet, is set for Thursday, Dec. 16 from Space Launch Complex 3 East at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. aboard a Lockheed Martin Atlas IIAS rocket. The launch window is 25 minutes in duration extending from 10:33 to 10:58 a.m. PST (1:33 to 1:58 p.m. EST).

Terra, managed by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., is the NASA flagship mission in a new series of spacecraft dedicated to the U.S. Global Change Research Program. Terra carries five sophisticated sets of instruments with measurement and accuracy capabilities never before flown. See for details on the mission.

Terra takes a global approach to data collection that will enable scientists to study the interaction among the four spheres of the Earth system -- the oceans, lands, atmosphere and biosphere. Long-term weather and climate prediction requires the collection of better data over longer periods to understand the links between these spheres.

Among the instruments are two managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.:

- The JPL-built Multi-angle Imaging Spectro-Radiometer (MISR) will improve our understanding of the Earth's ecology and climate by studying how changes in the amounts, types, and distribution of clouds, airborne particulates, and surface covers can affect our climate. For more information, go to .

- The Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and reflection Radiometer (ASTER), a joint U.S.-Japanese instrument, will produce detailed global, regional and local image maps of land surface temperature, reflectance and elevation and other characteristics. ASTER is the only high-spatial-resolution instrument on Terra, and the instrument's ability to serve as a "zoom lens" for the other instruments will be particularly important for land studies, detecting surface changes, and for calibrating instruments. See for more information.

JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, Calif.

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