You Can Help NASA With Your Eclipse Observations

NASA is celebrating the first American total solar eclipse of the smartphone era with a citizen science project that will let eclipse viewers provide data to help scientists understand how much energy from the sun reaches Earth’s surface.

To take part, you’ll need to download the program’s free app, called GLOBE Observer. Once you’ve installed it, set up an account with a valid email address (the application will automatically assign your password and email it to you).

You can download the app any time between now and Aug. 21, but the data portal for eclipse observations won’t launch until Aug. 18. They need data from both on and off the path of totality, so you can take part wherever in the United States you’ll be on the big day.

The program is asking for data before and after the climax of the eclipse, so signing up won’t affect your ability to enjoy the spectacle.

Armed with just your phone, you can contribute by watching cloud cover for the two hours before and after the moon crosses the sun. The GLOBE program is asking contributors to aim for a photograph every 15 to 30 minutes within that window. If a photo doesn’t do justice to everything you’re seeing, you can also type in a note.

If you’ve got a thermometer on hand, you can also measure how much the temperature changes as the eclipse happens. For these observations, GLOBE is hoping for a measurement every 10 minutes for two hours on each side of the eclipse, preferably speeding up to every five minutes for the hour immediately surrounding the eclipse. You can take those measurements wherever you are, as long as you hold the thermometer in the shade (that can be your own shadow). If you’re intrigued but want to focus on the eclipse experience, you can also take these measurements on Aug. 20 to give the team something to compare to.

GLOBE is also looking for some more complicated data if you have snazzier equipment like an infrared thermometer or an anemometer for wind speeds. To submit these observations, however, you’ll need to study up on some training materials and pass quizzes to show you know what you’re doing.

The app will walk you through collecting your data and can send you reminders if you’re worried about losing track of time, as long as you allow notifications.

All of the information people submit will be banked together for scientists and students to analyze. Like NASA’s own on-the-ground measurements and contributions from instruments in space, the data will help scientists understand how much energy Earth gets from the sun.

If you don’t want to wait until Aug. 20 to get started, the GLOBE Observer app already has two projects in the works, one on cloud observations and one tracking mosquito habitat and larvae. Happy science-ing!

NASA Has A Six-Figure Job Opening For Someone To Defend Earth From Aliens

US government scientists work hard to protect the public.

Some researchers study infectious diseases and effective treatments. Others ensure that drugs, food, vehicles, or consumer products live up to their claims and don’t harm anyone.

But the concerns over at NASA headquarters are, quite literally, extraterrestrial — which is why the space agency now has a job opening for “planetary protection officer.”

The gig? Help defend planet Earth from alien contamination, and also help Earth not contaminate alien worlds that it’s trying to explore.

The pay? A six-figure salary ranging from $124,406 to $187,000 per year, plus benefits, for three to five years.

A rare and cosmically important position

While many space agencies hire planetary protection officers, they’re often shared or part-time roles.

In fact, only two such full-time roles exist in the world: One at NASA and the other at the European Space Agency.

That’s according to Catharine A. Conley, NASA’s current and sole planetary protection officer, whom Business Insider has interviewed a couple of times, most recently in March. (Conley and NASA did not immediately respond to our latest questions about her employment status and the open position.)

The job was created after the US signed and ratified the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, and it specifically relates to article IX of the document:

“States Parties to the Treaty shall pursue studies of outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, and conduct exploration of them so as to avoid their harmful contamination and also adverse changes in the environment of the Earth resulting from the introduction of extraterrestrial matter and, where necessary, shall adopt appropriate measures for this purpose.”

As part of the international agreement’s creation, its makers decided that any space mission must have less than a 1-in-10,000 chance of contaminating an alien world.

“It’s a moderate level,” Conley previously said. “It’s not extremely careful, but it’s not extremely lax.”

This is why NASA’s planetary protection officer occasionally gets to travel to space centers around the world and analyse planet-bound robots. The officer helps ensure that we don’t accidentally contaminate a pristine world that a probe is landing on or, more often, is zooming by and taking pictures of.

For example, Congress and the president have green-lighted NASA to explore Europa: an icy, ocean-hiding, and potentially habitable moon of Jupiter. The goal of the initial $2.7 billion Europa Clipper mission is not to land on the moon, though, but to map its surface and look for clues about its hidden ocean and habitability.

Still, there’s a chance the robot could crash-land — and that’s where someone like Conley comes in to mitigate risk.

The concern also works the other way, most imminently for Mars.

The red planet is a frequent target for NASA because it’s oddly similar to Earth. It may have once been covered in water and able to support life, which is why many scientists are pushing hard for a Mars sample return mission, ostensibly to seek out signs of aliens.

While the expectation is not to scoop up freeze-dried Martian microbes — only ancient, microscopic fossils — there’s always the chance of an active contamination once those samples hit earthbound labs.

Again, this is where the planetary protection officer and her team come in: They help establish the equipment, protocols, and procedures to reduce such risks.

“The phrase that we use is, ‘Break the chain of contact with Mars,'” Conley previously said of her work on such efforts.

No one ever said defending Earth had to be glorious all of the time, though; Conley said a typical week mostly involves a lot of emails and reading studies, proposals, and other materials.

Who qualifies as a candidate

An out-of-this-world job like Conley’s requires some equally extraordinary qualifications.

A candidate must have at least one year of experience as a top-level civilian government employee, plus be an expert in “advanced knowledge” of planetary protection and all that it entails.

If you don’t have “demonstrated experience planning, executing, or overseeing elements of space programs of national significance,” then you may be wasting your time by submitting an application.

The job involves a lot of international coordination — space exploration is expensive and the costs are frequently shared by multiple nations — so NASA needs someone with “demonstrated skills in diplomacy that resulted in win-win solutions during extremely difficult and complex multilateral discussions.”

Did we mention the advanced degree in physical science, engineering, or mathematics? You should have that on your resume, too.

The job comes with a “secret” security clearance, and noncitizens aren’t technically allowed to apply. (That rule is thanks to an executive order signed by former President Gerald R. Ford in 1976.)

Applications will be accepted through from July 13 through August 14.

No, NASA Hasn’t Found Alien Life… Yet

NASA is not preparing to drop an alien-life bombshell, despite what you may have heard.

Last week, the hacking group Anonymous posted a video on YouTube suggesting that the space agency is about to announce the discovery of life beyond Earth. The video has made a big splash online — so big that NASA science chief Thomas Zurbuchen addressed the rumor today (June 26).

“Contrary to some reports, there’s no pending announcement from NASA regarding extraterrestrial life,” Zurbuchen said via Twitter, where he posts as @Dr_ThomasZ.

“Are we alone in the universe? While we do not know yet, we have missions moving forward that may help answer that fundamental question,” he added in another tweet today.

Anonymous’ video focuses not on hacked documents but rather on testimony Zurbuchen gave back in April during a hearing of the House of Representatives’ Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. (The 12-minute video also touches on some other topics, including the seven Earth-size planets circling the star TRAPPIST-1 and several supposed UFO sightings.)

During the April 26 hearing, which was called “Advances in the Search for Life,” Zurbuchen laid out the progress NASA has been making in the hunt for life in the cosmos. He cited, among other things, the thousands of exoplanets spotted by the agency’s Kepler space telescope, the recent discovery of hydrogen in the geysers blasting from the south pole of Saturn’s moon Enceladus, and the possible detection of water-vapor plumes emanating from the Jovian satellite Europa.

“Taking into account all of the different activities and missions that are specifically searching for evidence of alien life, we are on the verge of making one of the most profound, unprecedented discoveries in history,” Zurbuchen said during the hearing.

In the recent video, Anonymous takes the second half of this sentence and runs with it.

“NASA: ‘Mankind is about to discover extraterrestrial life,'” an Anonymous spokesman wearing the group’s famous Guy Fawkes mask intones, with a digitally altered voice, at the beginning of the video.

This interpretation isn’t strictly wrong. But “on the verge” is a far cry from “has found evidence,” and anyone expecting an Earth-shattering announcement from NASA in the next few weeks or months is bound to be disappointed.

You can watch the April 26 hearing, and read Zurbuchen’s submitted testimony, here:

NASA Announces its 2017 Astronaut Candidates

After receiving a record-breaking number of applications to join an exciting future of space exploration, NASA has selected its largest astronaut class since 2000. Rising to the top of more than 18,300 applicants, NASA chose 12 women and men as the agency’s new astronaut candidates.

Vice President Mike Pence joined NASA leaders Wednesday as they introduced the members of the 2017 astronaut class during an event at the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. While at Johnson, the vice president toured the International Space Station mission control center, and the historic mission control center, which was used during early NASA spaceflights, including the first moon landing mission, Apollo 11. He also was presented with a model of the International Space Station and a framed U.S. flag that was flown to and from the orbiting laboratory this winter.

“These are 12 men and women whose personal excellence and whose personal courage will carry our nation to even greater heights of discovery and who I know will inspire our children and our grandchildren every bit as much as your forebears have done so in this storied American program,” said Vice President Pence. “And to this newest class of astronauts, it’s my honor to bring the sincere congratulations of the 45th President of the United States of America, President Donald Trump. Your President is proud of you, and so am I.”

The astronaut candidates will return to Johnson in August to begin two years of training. Then they could be assigned to any of a variety of missions, including: performing research on the International Space Station, launching from American soil on spacecraft built by commercial companies, and departing for deep space missions on NASA’s new Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System rocket.

“We look forward to the energy and talent of these astronauts fueling our exciting future of discovery,” acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot said. “Between expanding the crew on board the space station to conduct more research than ever before, and making preparations to send humans farther into space than we’ve ever been, we are going to keep them busy. These candidates are an important addition to the NASA family and the nation’s human spaceflight team.”

Applicants included U.S. citizens in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories Puerto Rico, Guam, and American Samoa. The talented women and men selected for the new astronaut class represent the diversity of America and the career paths that can lead to a place in America’s astronaut corps.

The 2017 astronaut candidates are:

Kayla Barron, 29, Lt., U.S. Navy, is originally from Richland, Washington. She graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy with a bachelor’s degree in systems engineering. A Gates Cambridge Scholar, Barron earned a master’s degree in nuclear engineering from the University of Cambridge. As a submarine warfare officer, Barron was a member of the first class of women commissioned into the submarine community. She’ll come to NASA from the U.S. Naval Academy, where she has been serving as the flag aide to the superintendent.

Zena Cardman, 29, calls Williamsburg, Virginia, home. She completed a Bachelor of Science in Biology and Master of Science in Marine Sciences at The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Cardman is currently a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow working on her doctorate at The Pennsylvania State University. Her research has focused on microorganisms in subsurface environments, ranging from caves to deep sea sediments. Her field experience includes multiple Antarctic expeditions, work aboard research vessels as both scientist and crew, and NASA analog missions in British Columbia, Idaho and Hawaii.

Raja Chari, 39, Lt. Col., U.S. Air Force, hails from Waterloo, Iowa. He graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy with bachelor’s degrees in astronautical engineering and engineering science. He continued on to earn a master’s degree in aeronautics and astronautics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and graduated from the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School. Chari has been serving as the commander of the 461st Flight Test Squadron and the director of the F-35 Integrated Test Force at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

Matthew Dominick, 35, Lt. Cmdr., U.S. Navy, was born and raised in Wheat Ridge, Colorado. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from the University of San Diego and a Master of Science in Systems Engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School. He also graduated from the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School. Dominick was at sea on the USS Ronald Reagan, serving as department head for Strike Fighter Squadron 115, when he got the call saying he’d been selected as an astronaut candidate.

Bob Hines, 42, considers Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, his hometown. He graduated from Boston University with a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering. From there, he went on to graduate from the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School, and then the University of Alabama, where he earned a master’s degree in aerospace engineering. He has served in the U.S. Air Force and Air Force Reserves for 18 years. For the last five years, Hines has served as a NASA research pilot at Johnson.

Warren “Woody” Hoburg, 31, is originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He earned a bachelor’s degree in aeronautics and astronautics from MIT. He continued on to earn a doctorate in electrical engineering and computer science from the University of California, Berkley. He is a private pilot and has extensive experience with wilderness search and rescue efforts. Hoburg will come to NASA from MIT, where he currently is leading a research group as an assistant professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

Dr. Jonny Kim, 33, Lt., U.S. Navy, was born and raised in Los Angeles. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy, then trained and operated as a Navy SEAL, completing more than 100 combat operations and earning a Silver Star and Bronze Star with Combat V. Afterward, he went on to complete a degree in mathematics at the University of San Diego and a doctorate of medicine at Harvard Medical School. Kim is a resident physician in emergency medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Robb Kulin, 33, hails from Anchorage, Alaska. He earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Denver before going on to complete a master’s degree in materials science and a doctorate in engineering at the University of California, San Diego. He has previous experience as an ice driller in Antarctica on the West Antarctic Ice Sheet and Taylor Glaciers, and as a commercial fisherman in Chignik, Alaska. Since 2011, Kulin has worked for SpaceX in Hawthorne, California, where he leads the Launch Chief Engineering group.

Jasmin Moghbeli, 33, Maj., U.S. Marine Corps, considers Baldwin, New York, her hometown. She earned a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering with information technology at MIT, followed by a master’s degree in aerospace engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School. She also is a distinguished graduate of the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School. Moghbeli currently tests H-1 helicopters and serves as the quality assurance and avionics officer for Marine Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron 1 in Yuma, Arizona.

Loral O’Hara, 34, calls Sugar Land, Texas, home. She earned a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering at the University of Kansas and a master’s degree in aeronautics and astronautics from Purdue University. As a student, she participated in NASA’s KC-135 Reduced Gravity Student Flight Opportunities Program, the NASA Academy at the agency’s Goddard Space Flight Center, and the internship program at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. O’Hara is currently a research engineer at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.

Dr. Francisco “Frank” Rubio, 41, Maj., U.S. Army, is originally from Miami. He earned a bachelor’s degree in international relations at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and a doctorate of medicine from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. Rubio has accumulated more than 1,100 hours of flight time in helicopters, including 600 hours of combat and imminent danger time. He’s currently serving as a surgeon for the 3rd Battalion of the Army’s 10th Special Forces Group at Fort Carson, Colorado.

Jessica Watkins, 29, hails from Lafayette, Colorado. She graduated from Stanford University with a bachelor’s degree in geological and environmental sciences, then went on to earn a doctorate in geology from the University of California, Los Angeles. Watkins has worked at NASA’s Ames Research Center and Jet Propulsion Laboratory and currently is a postdoctoral fellow at the California Institute of Technology, where she collaborates on the Mars Science Laboratory rover, Curiosity.

With the addition of these 12 members of the 2017 astronaut candidate class, NASA now has selected 350 astronauts since the original Mercury 7 in 1959.

“These women and men deserve our enthusiastic congratulations,” said astronaut and Johnson Space Center Director Ellen Ochoa. “Children all across the United States right now dream of being in their shoes someday. We here at NASA are excited to welcome them to the team and look forward to working with them to inspire the next generation of explorers.”

The astronaut candidates will be available to talk to media in person at Johnson and by remote satellite link on June 8. Media interested in this limited opportunity should contact the Johnson newsroom at 281-483-5111.

Find photos and additional information about the new astronaut candidates at:

Follow NASA astronauts on Twitter at:

Tomorrow, NASA Will Make a Major Announcement About a New Mission To “Touch the Sun”

On Twitter, NASA announced that on Wednesday, May 31, it will provide more details about a mission to send its Solar Prob Plus seven times closer to the Sun than any spacecraft has gone before. The probe’s website says its launch window will be between July 31 and August 19, 2018.

The probe will fly within about 6.4 million kilometers (4 million miles) of the Sun’s surface, facing temperatures of 1,400 Celcius (2,500 Fahrenheit) and huge amounts of radiation. For protection against the extreme conditions it will use a 11.4-centimeter (4.5-inch) thick carbon-composite shield.

The probe will attempt to orbit the Sun 24 times in six years and 11 months, using seven Venus gravity-assisted flybys to help it achieve speeds of nearly 725,000 kilometers (450,000 miles) per hour.


The mission will help us understand more about the nature of our solar system by discovering the star at the heart of it. The probe has three central objectives:

Trace the flow of energy that heats and accelerates the solar corona and solar wind.

Determine the structure and dynamics of the plasma and magnetic fields at the sources of the solar wind.

Explore mechanisms that accelerate and transport energetic particles.

While this will give us insight for further studying the star powering warming our world, it will also serve a crucial social purpose: to garner more information on solar weather to help us protect our planet and satellites. NASA estimates that a huge unpredicted solar event could knock out satellites and cost the U.S. alone up to $2 trillion in damage — potentially even causing long-term electricity shortages worldwide.

NASA Finds Solar System Of 7 Earth-Like Planets With Life Potential

It sounds like something out of a science fiction novel, and a particularly pulpy and preposterous one at that. A mere 40 light-years away, there’s a solar system where seven Earth-like planets orbit a tiny dwarf star, all at a fraction of the distance between our world and the sun. As NASA announced on Wednesday, at least three of the planets could have oceans of liquid water, and it’s entirely possible the other four do as well, meaning this solar system could theoretically be teeming with life.

Every new exoplanet discovery lets us better understand our place in the cosmos. As recently as 25 years ago, planets orbiting other stars were just a theoretical possibility, making it plausible to suggest we might be all alone in the universe. A flurry of discoveries has since revealed our galaxy is likely home to hundreds of billions of planets, with at least 10 billion of them potentially habitable worlds. But this system around the dwarf star TRAPPIST-1 represents a whole other level of ridiculous when it comes to Earth-like planets.

Six of the seven planets are bunched closely together around the weak light of their star, which is only slightly bigger than Jupiter. As explained in a paper published in Nature, researchers followed up on initial observations from the ground-based telescopes at the European Southern Observatory with more in-depth study by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. It found that six of the planets take between 1.5 and 13 days to orbit their star, and even the more distant planet takes just 73 days, shorter than Mercury’s orbit around the sun.

That would mean anyone standing on the surface of one of these worlds would have an unbelievable view. The other planets could appear even bigger than the moon does in our night sky. If intelligent life ever evolved on one of these planets and developed space travel, exploring their solar system would be an absolute breeze. Getting from one planet to another would be a matter of a few days’ travel, rather than the months it would take us to get to even nearby worlds like Venus and Mars.

Five of the planets appear to be roughly the same size as Earth, while the other two are a bit smaller, about halfway between our planet and Mars. Astronomers have been able to confirm that the six innermost planets all have masses similar to that of Earth, meaning they are probably rocky, potentially life-supporting worlds — it’s very possible this is also the case for the seventh planet, but that’s not certain yet.

The fact that all the planets are bunched so close together in their orbits likely leaves them tidally locked, meaning one side of each planet always faces the star. Though that does mean the star-facing sides of the planets would be much hotter than the dark sides, there would still be areas that could support atmospheres and water.

The three planets closest to the star might suffer the same kind of runaway greenhouse gas effect that has left Venus a hellish, superheated wasteland, but their situations might be a bit better than on our nearest planetary neighbor — the astronomers believe there would be at least a few regions where liquid water could exist. The next three planets are in even better shape, as they could all be home to full-fledged oceans. The most distant planet is again mysterious because of more limited observations, but it could potentially have water on its surface if the world has enough internal heat to avoid going into deep freeze.

We will soon get a chance to learn a lot more about these planets, as the James Webb Space Telescope, NASA’s upcoming successor to Hubble, will be able to detect what makes up the atmosphere of each of the planets and what heat each world emits. Astronomers should then be able to determine if any or all the planets have water and, with it, the potential for life.

And here’s the thing: The odds are way, way, way better that life would at some point evolve in this solar system than it ever would in ours. A low-energy dwarf star like TRAPPIST-1 will burn for about a thousand times longer than the 10 billion years our sun has got. When a solar system has 10 trillion years — about 700 times the current age of the universe — life is quite possibly a matter of when, not if.

NASA Will Announce A Major “Discovery Beyond Our Solar System” Today

NASA will hold a news conference later today in Washington DC, during which the space agency will announce a “discovery beyond our solar system”.

The organisation is keeping a tight lip on what the conference will entail, mentioning only that it will involve “new findings on planets that orbit stars other than our sun, known as exoplanets”.

A number of prominent researchers are being called in to speak at the briefing, including Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of the Science Mission Directorate at NASA headquarters; Sara Seager, professor of planetary science and physics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and Michael Gillön, astronomer at the University of Liège in Belgium.

Most of the speakers specialise in the study of habitable exoplanets, as well as the possibility of life existing outside of our solar system. At the very least, the international pedigree of the speakers suggests that we may be in for something special.

NASA’s findings are under embargo with the science journal Nature until the conference begins on 22 February, 1pm ET (6pm GMT). You can watch the briefing live then, via NASA TV. Scientists will also answer questions at 3pm ET (8pm GMT) on a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything).

Your Annual Reminder From NASA That Global Warming Is Real

Scientists jumped on a teleconference with reporters Wednesday to deliver some news: Yes, 2016 was the warmest year in recorded history; yes, the planet continues to warm as expected; and yes, climate change is real.

“The trends that we’ve been seeing since the 1970s are continuing, and have not paused in any way,” says Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

According to NASA’s analysis (done in conjunction with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA), 2016 came in 1.2 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial average. It beat the previous record, set in 2015, which beat the record set in 2014. Each of those years was at least one degree above the late 19th-century average, and Schmidt doesn’t expect to see a year fall below that benchmark for the foreseeable future, barring some temporary cooling event caused by, perhaps, a large volcanic eruption.

This year, he says, will likely be cooler than the last, but not by much. “My personal prediction is that 2017 will be a top-five year, possibly the second warmest,” says Schmidt. “Whether people suddenly want to say after a record that, ‘Oh, now we’ve cooled, because there was a record last year’ — I think people are savvy enough to see how transparent that is.”

Of course, the unspoken context of this whole discussion was a rebuke of climate change deniers in a country set to inaugurate a president this week who has appointed leading climate change deniers to his cabinet, and has signaled intentions to gut NASA’s budget for climate change science.

NASA Picked the Best Designs for Future Homes on Mars

Climate change. Antibiotic-resistant superbugs. Paul Ryan dabbing. We may be looking to leave this planet sooner rather than later. Since Mars is the most plausible destination, NASA held a competition for design teams to come up with potential homes on the Red Planet. The 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge, which was part of a the larger Centennial Challenges Program, received some rather unique entries, with the winner being the Mars Ice House, a design from Team Space Exploration Architecture and Clouds Architecture Office in New York. The inflatable dome lined with ice is designed to protect humans from cosmic and solar radiation while allowing them to move around inside without a spacesuit.

NASA Just Pledged to Fight Climate Change From Space

NASA has made a big step in the fight against climate change, with a plan to launch satellites into space and measure atmospheric gasses over the Americas. The $166 million Geostationary Carbon Cycle Observatory (GeoCARB) mission will span five years, and its leaders are confident that it will improve humanity’s understanding of natural sciences.

“The GeoCARB mission breaks new ground for NASA’s Earth science and applications programs,” Michael Freilich, director of the Earth Science Division of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, said in a statement released Tuesday. “GeoCARB will provide important new measurements related to Earth’s global natural carbon cycle, and will allow monitoring of vegetation health throughout North, Central and South America.”

The move comes at a time when scientists are fearful that not enough is being done to reduce carbon emissions. The Paris Agreement, which promises to limit global temperature rise to less than two degrees Celsius, is now under threat after the election of Donald Trump to the U.S. presidency. Trump pledged in May to back out of the Paris climate deal, and a reported shortlist of EPA candidates suggests he intends to roll back climate commitments. Long-term science missions like GeoCARB will be vital in maintaining momentum in the emissions reduction fight.

The University of Oklahoma-led team will launch a commercial communications satellite that will take daily measurements of carbon dioxide, methane, and carbon monoxide, with a precision as fine as three to six miles, from an orbit of around 22,000 miles above the equator. If successful, GeoCARB has the potential to strengthen NASA’s ties with the private sector, demonstrating that NASA can work with commercial satellites to complete missions.

It’s not the only Earth science initiative NASA is undertaking. On Monday, the agency will launch the Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS), which will help scientists better understand hurricane movements and how they intensify.