Climate Researchers Mourn Failed Satellite Launch

  • Published on February 27th, 2009

NASA’s Carbon Observatory that failed to reach orbit on Tuesday would have provided the first complete picture of CO2 sources and sinks. Scientists are now reassessing their strategy.


After NASA’s first spacecraft dedicated to studying atmospheric carbon dioxide plunged into the ocean on February 24, a wave of disappointment struck climate scientists worldwide.

The satellite would have measured carbon dioxide concentrations in unprecedented detail. Many also hoped that it would pioneer an approach for monitoring greenhouse gas emissions under a future Kyoto-style global warming treaty that could be reached at Copenahagen later this year.

Jeff Tollefson and Geoff Brumfiel write at naturenews

“For now, the climate community will have to settle for GOSAT. The Japanese satellite covers more ground but has less resolution, so it would have been a perfect match for OCO; the question moving forward will be how to validate observations from one satellite without the other.”

John Burrows, a co-investigator on the OCO project and science director at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology in Wallingford, United Kingdom, also told Tollefson and Brumfiel that, “We could probably do with having a fleet of 20 of these satellites, because the issue is so important,” says. We start[ed] out with two this year, and now we’ve lost one.”

NASA has already launched an investigation to discover the cause of the mishap.

About the Author

is the founder of ecopolitology and the executive editor at LiveOAK Media, a media network about the politics of energy and the environment, green business, cleantech, and green living. When not reading, writing, thinking or talking about environmental politics with anyone who will listen, Tim spends his time skiing in Colorado's high country, hiking with his dog, and getting dirty in his vegetable garden.

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