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NASA space lasers to reveal new depths of planet's ice melting

NASA space lasers to reveal new  depths of planet's ice melting


AFP
TAMPA
NASA is poised to launch on Saturday its most advanced space laser ever, ICESat-2, a $1 billion dollar mission to reveal the depths of the Earth's melting ice as the climate warms.
The half-ton satellite, about the size of a smart-car, is scheduled to blast off atop a Delta II rocket on September 15 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
The 40-minute launch window opens at 5:46 am local time (1246 GMT). The mission is"exceptionally important for science,"Richard Slonaker, ICESat-2 program executive at NASA, told reporters ahead of the launch.
That's because it has been nearly a decade since NASA had a tool in orbit to measure ice sheet surface elevation across the globe.
The preceding mission, ICESat, launched in 2003 and ended in 2009. From it, scientists learned that sea ice was thinning, and ice cover was disappearing from coastal areas in Greenland and Antarctica.
In the intervening nine years, an aircraft mission, called Operation IceBridge, has flown over the Arctic and Antarctic,"taking height measurements and documenting the changing ice,"NASA said. But an update is urgently needed.
Humanity's constant reliance on fossil fuels for energy means planet-warming greenhouse gases are continuing to mount.
Global average temperatures are climbing year after year, with four of the hottest years in modern times all taking place from 2014-2017.

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