NASA’s mission to understand and protect our home planet
will mark a major milestone this spring with the launch of
the Aqua satellite. Aqua, due to bring us unprecedented
insight of our world’s global water cycle, is the latest
sibling in a family of Earth Observing System satellites
dedicated to studying the Earth and our knowledge of global
climate change.

The primary role of Aqua, as the name implies, is to gather
information about water in the Earth’s system. Equipped with
six state-of-the-art instruments, Aqua will collect data on
global precipitation, evaporation, and the cycling of water.

During its six-year mission, Aqua will gather information on
changes in ocean circulation and how clouds and surface water
processes affect our climate. This information will help
scientists better understand how global ecosystems are
changing, and how they respond to and affect global
environmental change.

“Aqua will provide unprecedented information on the global
water cycle. The spacecraft will enable operational agencies
to create more accurate weather forecasts in the future,”
said Dr. Ghassem Asrar, Associate Administrator for NASA’s
Earth Science Enterprise, NASA Headquarters, Washington.

“Aqua will observe our Earth’s oceans, atmosphere, land, ice
and snow covers and vegetation,” said Claire Parkinson, the
Aqua project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center,
Greenbelt, Md. “This comprehensive approach enables
scientists to study the interactions among key elements of
the Earth system so as to better understand our planet.”

Aqua is expected to be launched May 2 from Vandenberg Air
Force Base, Calif. on a Boeing Delta-7920-10L expendable
launch vehicle. The 10-minute launch window opens at 2:55
a.m. Pacific Daylight Time (5:55 a.m. EDT). Aqua will fly at
an altitude of approximately 705 kilometers (438 miles) above
Earth in a near polar and sun synchronous orbit.

Aqua is the sister satellite to NASA’s Terra spacecraft,
launched in December of 1999. Aqua will cross the equator
daily at 1:30 p.m. as it heads North. The early afternoon
observation time contrasts with the Terra satellite which
crosses the equator between 10:30 and 10:45 a.m. daily. The
two satellites, Aqua’s afternoon observations and Terra’s
morning observations, will yield important insights into the
“diurnal variability,” or the daily cycling of key scientific
parameters such as precipitation and ocean circulation.

Aqua is a joint project between the United States, Japan and
Brazil. The United States provided the spacecraft and four of
Aqua’s six scientific instruments. NASA’s Goddard Space
Flight Center provided the Moderate Resolution Imaging
Spectroradiometer and the Advanced Microwave Sounding Unit.
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., provided
the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder, and NASA’s Langley Research
Center, Hampton, Va., provided the Clouds and the Earth’s
Radiant Energy System instrument.

Japan’s National Space Development Agency provided the
Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer. The Instituto
Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais (the Brazilian Institute for
Space Research) provided the Humidity Sounder for Brazil.

Aqua is part of NASA’s Earth Science Enterprise, a long-term
research effort dedicated to understanding and protecting our
home planet. Through the study of Earth, NASA will help to
provide sound science to policy and economic decision makers
so as to better life here, while developing the technologies
needed to explore the universe and search for life beyond our
home planet.

More information about the Aqua program is available at:

Information about NASA’s Earth Science Enterprise can be
found at: