NASA Soil Moisture Mission Continues Despite Radar Ends Operations

Posted: Sep 3 2015, 6:39am CDT | by , Updated: Sep 3 2015, 8:38pm CDT, in News | Latest Science News

NASA Soil Moisture Mission Continues Despite Radar Ends Operations
NASA’s SMAP mission, launched in January to map global soil moisture and detect whether soils are frozen or thawed, continues to produce high-quality science measurements with one of its two instruments. Credits: NASA
  • NASA’s SMAP Observatory Radar Snaps leaving the Agency High and Dry

It appears that NASA’s SMAP Observatory radar has snapped, leaving the agency and its staff high and dry.

NASA has a Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) Observatory. One of its radars has short-circuited, leaving NASA at a loss as to what to do. The radar was one of two devices the observatory had in its repertoire.

Thus it is currently functioning at half mast. No data is incoming from the radar. It is dysfunctional for all purposes. The mission was initiated at the beginning of this year.

Soil moisture was gauged via this observatory’s activities. The freezing soil as well as thawed soil was observed and measured through the radar.

The overall scope of NASA SMAP mission is to aid the experts in gaining knowledge about the planet’s water, energy and carbon cycles. This way deluges and desertification may be avoided, or at least, averted.

By forecasting the weather, the productivity of crops could be increased. At least, that is the goal of SMAP. The SMAP satellite is functioning as usual without one wing (so to say). The next report will be issued in September of this year.

"Although some of the planned applications of SMAP data will be impacted by the loss of the radar, the SMAP mission will continue to produce valuable science for important Earth system studies," said Dara Entekhabi, SMAP Science Team lead at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge.

Despite the loss of functioning in one radar, SMAP will continue in its mission. Life after all still goes on as usual. The impact of the radar failure will be minimal. Valuable information will reach the researchers despite the fault in machinery. It was on July 7th that the radar lost contact with the earth crew.

The transmission stopped due to a glitch in the high power amplifier. This device is supposed to boost the energy levels of the radar to above 500 watts. A team was formed to check into the fault lines in the system. Some heuristics are being applied both from the ground level and in space.

An attempt was made to restart the radar with no response. After using up all the options, this special team which is competent and capable has been formed. The circumstances that led to the failure in the first place remain a mystery.

The researchers are now calculating algorithms to solve the crisis. And although it is not that big a problem, it needs to be solved at a core level if the project and mission are to progress any further. NASA has various offshoots that function on their own and this mission is one of them.

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