How NASA Studies the Earth as We Celebrate Earth Day

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DES MOINES, IOWA — From the moon to Mars and everything in between, my may only think about space when you hear the acronym ‘NASA’. But NASA actually has a variety of missions that focus on studying changes right here on Earth.

“When most people think of NASA, they think of space exploration,” says NASA research scientist Denis Felikson, “and one of those planets is Earth.” The biggest tool they have to carry their continued exploration and understanding of the Earth is the International Space Station. Felikson says the ISS is loaded with a ‘suite’ of instruments pointed at and studying the Earth. That includes searching for carbon sources, testing the temperatures of plants and using the ‘JEDI’ laser to measure the heights of trees and temperatures of plants.

“We can measure lots of things using satellites. We’re measuring sea level rise all around the globe. we’re measuring how ice sheets in greenland and anarctica and glaciers are changing all over the world,” says Felikson. He says scientists know the Earth has warmed two degrees in the last 200 years and finding and slowing the sources of that warming is a primary mission of NASA.

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