Twenty scientists went aloft aboard NASA’s DC-8 flying laboratory in late July to conduct an airborne test of four very different laser techniques for remotely measuring atmospheric carbon dioxide and two laser instruments that remotely measured oxygen. The DC-8 also carried two “truth” instruments – devices that are known to produce accurate data – that took air samples to be compared with the laser measurements.
As part of a research campaign dubbed Active Sensing of CO2 Emissions over Night, Days and Seasons II, or ASCENDS II, the aircraft flew over central California July 28. The focus of this mission, which is funded by the Earth Science division of NASA's Science Mission Directorate, is the further development of laser-based Earth-observing satellite instruments designed to measure atmospheric carbon dioxide.
"Satellite instruments start in a laboratory and mature to a point where they need to be used in the atmosphere," said DC-8 project manager Frank Cutler at NASA’s Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility in Palmdale, Calif. "The cheapest way to test is first on the ground and then to get the instruments into the air for in-flight analysis."The DC-8 flying laboratory is often used to facilitate these assessments," Cutler added. "It is interesting to observe what an instrument that will fly on a satellite goes through to be certified for operational use."