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The PREFIRE Polar Mission Explained

Context:

A NASA PREFIRE polar mission is set to be launched from New Zealand on May 22.

Relevance:

GS III: Science and Technology

The PREFIRE Polar Mission Explained:

Overview:

  • The PREFIRE (Polar Radiant Energy in the Far-InfraRed Experiment) polar mission comprises twin satellites, each equipped with an instrument, tasked with measuring the poles approximately six hours apart.

Objective:

  • The primary goal of the mission is to unveil the complete spectrum of heat loss from Earth’s polar regions, thereby enhancing the accuracy of climate models.

Aim:

  • The PREFIRE mission aims to fill knowledge gaps and furnish data to refine predictions related to climate change and sea level rise.
  • It seeks to offer fresh insights into how Earth’s atmosphere and ice impact the radiation of heat from the Arctic and Antarctic into space.

Satellite Operation:

  • Cube satellites, akin to the size of a shoebox, will be launched aboard an Electron launch vehicle.
  • Equipped with Mars-tested technology, these satellites will measure an underexplored portion of Earth’s radiant energy.
  • Twin satellites housing a thermal infrared spectrometer will orbit near-polar asynchronously, covering overlapping areas near the poles every few hours.
  • Weighing less than 6 pounds (3 kilograms) each, the instruments will employ thermocouples, similar to those found in household thermostats, for data collection.

Mission Objectives:

  • Understand the disproportionate warming of the Arctic compared to the rest of the planet since the 1970s.
  • Gain insights into the efficiency of far-infrared heat emission by substances like snow and sea ice, and the influence of clouds on far-infrared radiation escaping to space.
  • Enable researchers to forecast changes in heat exchange between Earth and space, and their repercussions on phenomena such as ice sheet melting, atmospheric temperatures, and global weather patterns.

-Source: Indian Express


June 2024
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