Nasa official Mark Subba Rao. (DC)
WASHINGTON: Nisar, the Indo-US satellite mission, is set for launch early next year, an official of the National Aeronautics and Space Agency (Nasa) said. It will observe ecosystem disturbances and global environmental changes and attempt to predict natural catastrophes like earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes and landslides.
The Nasa-Isro Synthetic Aperture Radar (Nisar) satellite, weighing about 2,600 kg, will be the costliest space observation mission ever at $1.5 billion. It will use advanced radar imaging to map the elevation of Earth's land and ice masses 4 to 6 times a month at resolutions of 5 to 10 metres
Speaking to Deccan Chronicle, Mark Subba Rao, who leads Nasa’s group to visualise the agency’s science results for the public, said: "Nisar’s radar captures movements of the planet's surface, land and sea ice overtime, revealing subtle changes as well as insight into what's happening below the surface," he said.
The media interaction was held at Washington DC on September 15 as part of the International Reporting Tour (IRT) organised by the US department of state Foreign Press Centre in Boston from September 6 to 16.
Rao stated that rapid sampling over the duration of the mission will increase understanding and allow better management of resources and help prepare for and cope with hazards and global change.
"Subtle surface motions are associated with earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and landslides. Nisar will measure these changes to determine the likelihood of such catastrophic events," Rao said.
With forests making way for agricultural land, Rao said, "Nisar will determine the contribution of earth's varying biomass to the global carbon budget and characterise ecosystem disturbance and impacts on biodiversity."
Nisar will also determine how climate and ice masses inter-relate and raise sea level. It will measure changes in sea ice, snow extent, permafrost and surface melting, ice sheets, sea ice and glaciers are undergoing dramatic changes. It will provide systematic measurements showing short-term variations and long-term trends, he added.
The radar will monitor hydrocarbon and sequestered carbon dioxide reservoirs and measure changes in groundwater in earth's vulnerable regions.
Before joining Nasa, Rao spent 18 years at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago, where he produced planetarium shows and designed museum exhibits featuring data-driven scientific visualisations. He was president of the International Planetarium Society (IPS) in 2019-20, where he spearheaded the ‘Data to Dome’’ initiative to prepare the planetarium community for the big data era. Before that he was part of a University of Chicago team that created the largest 3D map of the universe, the Sloan Digital Sky Survey.