You find the fun and SMAP!

Today is the anniversary of the Challenger accident. Read our commemorative post HERE, and last year’s post commemorating that event, the Columbia accident, and the Apollo 1 fire HERE.

Tomorrow, on January 29, SMAP will LAUNCH from Vandenberg Air Force Base. And Lofty Ambitions WILL BE THERE, thanks to an invitation from Lia Halloran, our colleague in Chapman University’s Department of Art. That’s right, an art professor is taking her class to see a rocket launch.

SMAP
SMAP

SMAP stands for Soil Moisture Active Passive, and we’re fascinated by this project. Agriculture and fisheries depend on climate conditions, but we don’t fully understand how climate change is affecting those conditions. SMAP will help answer that question, and because it’s NASA, the data will be made widely available. You can read about Doug’s close encounter with SMAP more than a year ago HERE.

NASA isn’t only about exploring new worlds. This project and three others are about Earth, about looking at our own world. The main goal of SMAP is to produce global maps of soil moisture so that we can understand our environment and better manage water resources. SMAP will measure soil moisture every two or three days for three years. The orbiting observatory will be particularly helpful because it carries two different kinds of equipment: a radar instrument for the big picture and a radiometer for the detail work.

While water in the soil is only a small fraction of the Earth’s water, it has an enormous effect on human lives and on the relationship between the ground and the air. SMAP will monitor droughts and floods, help us predict weather more accurately, and provide information about water, energy, and carbon cycles.

SMAP visualization (NASA)
SMAP visualization (NASA)

SMAP looks great too, with a rotating mesh antenna that extends more than 19 feet in diameter. The antenna weighs just 128 pounds and is folded into a cylinder for launch. Once unfurled on orbit, it will be NASA’s largest antenna of its kind.

As this piece posts on Wednesday, we’ll be on the road, heading north in hopes of making it to the 2p.m. press briefing at the Marriott near Vandenberg. The launch is scheduled for 6:20a.m. on Thursday. That means a very early morning, with transportation to watch the launch at about 3:30a.m. It’s been quite a while since we had that kind of launch day. We’re looking forward to it and hope you’ll watch on NASA-TV.

As this piece posts on Wednesday, we’ll be on the road, heading north in hopes of making it to the 2p.m. press briefing at the Marriott near Vandenberg. The launch is scheduled for 6:20a.m. on Thursday. That means a very early morning, with transportation to watch the launch at about 3:30a.m. It’s been quite a while since we had that kind of launch day. We’re looking forward to it and hope you’ll watch on NASA-TV.

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