A Collaboration of NASA, ESA, and South Korea
This February 18th, South Korea launched the first instrument of this design, named the Geostationary Environment Monitoring Spectrometer (GEMS). It flew into space attached to a Korean satellite that is also tasked with monitoring the ocean’s surface. NASA plans to send to space an instrument that is nearly identical, using the launch of the commercial communications satellite in 2022. They’ll be followed by the ESA (European Space Agency), who will add two instruments to its already existing air quality-monitoring satellites.
The instruments will collect data on pollution and the spread of smog, nitrogen dioxide, formaldehyde, and various aerosols. Hourly checks will give better data, showing where pollution shows up periodically or sporadically. The same instruments will also be able to show whether certain regions keep or spread the pollution they generate.
The Improvements Are Truly Groundbreaking
The program manager in NASA’s Earth Science Division certainly thinks that getting the data at different times of the day is important for more accurate air quality & pollution forecasts. While older space-based instruments give a reading once a day, the new ones will be able to do so on an hourly basis as they circle the Earth in geostationary orbit and make constant observations.
The main purpose of GEMS so far is to monitor smog and aerosols over Asia, follow pollution from gas and oil fields, ships, drilling platforms, and rush-hour traffic in North America, and improve the accuracy of air quality forecasts for Europe and North Africa. Also, the data will help scientists increase their understanding of a wide array of air quality issues that can affect human health.