Contact: Allen Kenitzer
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center–EOS Project Science Office

Pietersburg, South Africa — NASA’s Terra spacecraft and ER-2 high-altitude aircraft made their first synchronized scientific observations over Southern Africa today as part of the six-week Southern African Regional Science Initiative (SAFARI 2000) to study the region’s ecosystems, air quality and land use.

The target on this first “stacked” flight was the haze in the atmosphere, specifically the gas carbon monoxide, which is a major component of air pollution. During the current dry season in Southern African, thick haze is produced by the burning of vegetation and industrial pollution sources. This haze can last for weeks over the region.

“I am quite pleased with the first coordinated flight of the ER-2 and Terra today,” said Michael D. King of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, and SAFARI 2000 mission scientist for the ER-2. “We concentrated on comparing measurements of carbon monoxide and methane by Terra’s MOPITT (Measurements of Pollution in the Troposphere) instrument and the ER-2’s MOPITT-A instrument.”

In addition, air samples along the spacecraft’s track were collected by the South African Weather Bureau Aerocommander 690A aircraft. The South African plane, one of two participating in SAFARI 2000, made intricate spiral descents through the atmosphere to sample the haze.

Terra flew over the Indian Ocean along the eastern coast of Southern Africa today at 10:22 a.m. local time. Instruments onboard the ER-2 made measurements of the atmosphere at 60,000 feet along the spacecraft’s track within minutes of the overpass. The aircraft then returned inland to sample the hazy air over South Africa.

“We’re excited about the opportunity to fly with NASA’s ER-2 for the first time in this campaign,” said Bob Swap of the University of Virginia, principal investigator of the South African plane that flew today. “We’re hoping that the information gathered from this flight will be valuable for the global observations of the atmosphere that MOPITT will make in the coming years.”

From its base of operations in Pietersburg, in South Africa’s Northern Province, the SAFARI 2000 field experiment brings together nearly 200 U.S., African, and international scientists to “understand the sustainability of this region’s sensitive and pressured ecosystems,” said Professor Harold Annegarn, University of the Witwatersrand, one of the project’s lead organizers. “SAFARI 2000 is the biggest scientific collaboration experiment ever conducted in Africa.”

The SAFARI 2000 dry-season airborne campaign continues until Sept. 24. NASA’s Earth Observing System Project at Goddard Space Flight Center is the primary U.S. sponsor of SAFARI 2000.



Allen Kenitzer
Office of Public Affairs
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD 20771
(Phone: 301-286-2806)

Martha Molete
University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, Republic of South Africa
(Phone: 27-11-717-1019)