Changing Planet

NASA Launches Carbon Observatory

The Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2, NASA’s first mission dedicated to studying carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere, lifts off from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, at 2:56 a.m. Pacific Time, July 2, 2014. The two-year mission will help scientists unravel key mysteries about carbon dioxide. Courtesy of NASA/Bill Ingalls


A carbon-dioxide-monitoring satellite successfully reached orbit on Wednesday morning, NASA officials announced, replacing one lost after a failed launch five years ago.

The $475 million Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) mission will map carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, watching the Earth “breathe” in the words of NASA mission manager Betsy Edwards. A greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide is the big player in global warming, contributing to the roughly 1 degree Fahrenheit (0.6 degrees Celsius) increase in average surface temperatures seen over the past century.

“This challenging mission is both timely and important,” said NASA Earth Sciences chief Michael Freilich in a statement. “OCO-2 will produce exquisitely precise measurements of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations near Earth’s surface, laying the foundation for informed policy decisions on how to adapt to and reduce future climate change.” 

The spacecraft’s instruments will be checked over the next ten days, before the craft starts its two-year greenhouse gas mapping mission. The mission should reveal the exact atmospheric contributions of the largest sources of carbon dioxide, such as power plants, factories, and cities. And it should reveal the largest uptake points for the greenhouse gas, such as forests and oceans.

The mission replaces the first Orbiting Carbon Observatory, which was destroyed in 2009 after its capsule covering failed to open after launch.

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  • dave auburn

    It is good to see that Science never rests. Further data on this subject will give us a better understanding of how to deal with the challenge we are faced with.
    Thank goodness for NASA. Let’s see private enterprise accomplish half of what this government agency has.

  • Skateni malibongwe

    Nyc 1 by understanding the proble real and the source of it will show were…u cn know were to start wen u hv the solution

  • Dwayne LaGrou

    Very well put Dave !!! I couldn’t agree with you more. We have benefitted SO much by the things that have been learned through the Space Program at NASA. If the public only knew how many of our modern gadgets we have thanks to them. Who knows what we may learn next?!

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