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NASA launches ICESat-2 to trace melting ice of Earth

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Nasa now wants to trace the melting ice of Earth. To study glaciers, snow cover, sea ice, permafrost and ice sheets of our planet, NASA has launched a satellite. The Ice, Cloud, and Land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2) successfully took-off on Saturday at 9.02 am EDT for a three-year mission. It lifts off on a Delta II rocket from Space Launch Complex-2 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Noticeably, it is the rocket’s 155th and final mission.

“Today was the #Delta II’s final launch! ULALaunch used the last #Delta II rocket for the 9:02 am EDT liftoff of NASA_ICE’s #ICESat2 this morning. Once on orbit, #ICESat2 will measure the thickness of Earth’s polar ice sheets,” NASA tweeted. “Today’s #ICESat2 launch comes with a bonus — a pair of tiny satellites that will study how energetic electrons make their way into our atmosphere from space.”

The mission:

ICESat-2 contains an Advanced Topographic Laser Altimeter System (ATLAS). It measures the thickness of the Earth’s ice sheets with the help of laser light. This laser light splits into six beams producing waves 10,000 times per second. According to Verge’s report, the ICESat-2 will come across the same position of Earth in every 91 days. ICESat-2’s orbit will make 1,387 unique ground tracks. This will help the scientists to track the changes of that particular place over time. Also, they will record forest growth in the region.

“We’re going to have measurements all over and we’re going to have them at much higher resolution, so we can do a much better job tying the change [in ice levels and forest growth] to climate overall,” said ICESat-2 program scientist Tom Wagner. The satellite will also give insights into the impact of changes on people who live there.

“The ice sheets are really big,” added Tom Neumann, another program scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.  “Antarctica, for example, is about the size of the continental United States plus Mexico, and covering that much area by aircraft is just not feasible. If you want a picture of how the whole ice sheet is changing, you really have to look at it from the vantage point of space,” he continued.

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