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Aqua satellite blasts into orbit
CBC News Online
05/07/2002

TORONTO - Canadian scientists hope to better understand the Earth's complex water cycle when data starts pouring in from a newly launched American satellite.

NASA's Aqua satellite blasted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California Saturday on a six-year mission to observe not only water, but everything from vegetation cover to dissolved organic matter in the oceans.

Sophisticated instruments will also collect information on clouds, snow, ice, temperatures, humidity and the evaporation of the oceans.

Aqua will have six different instruments tracking the global movement of water as it cycles through the atmosphere, ocean and land.

Anne Walker of Environment Canada, said the information can help save lives if it can forecast the next big flood or ice storm.

"These are signals we need to monitor very closely what is happening to our environment," she said.

Environment Canada, a partner in the project, will be able to use the data to determine how much snow falls and how deep it is.

"Certainly it appears in the last 10 years that snow cover is decreasing," said Walker.

If all goes well, Aqua will start beaming signals in August and the spacecraft will return enough data each day to fill the hard drives of 75 personal computers.

One piece of equipment, the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder, will be able to determine temperatures on the planet's surface.

A senior member of the technical team responsible for the infrared sounder, Dr. Edward Olsen, said it will improve weather and climate forecasting because it can observe the entire Earth over a short time span.

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