Minimize Earth Observation Mission News

Forest-mapping instrument for space station passes major milestone

15 September 2015

Web Content Image

A laser-based instrument for mapping the 3-D structure of Earth's forests has passed a major milestone toward deployment on the International Space Station (ISS).

The Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation (GEDI), led by the University of Maryland, College Park, and built by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, successfully transitioned to "Phase B," moving from requirements development and mission definition to preliminary design. GEDI will provide the first comprehensive, high-resolution measurements of the vertical canopy structure of Earth's temperate and tropical forests.

These data will enable scientists to better address key questions about Earth's carbon cycle and biodiversity. NASA selected the GEDI proposal in July 2014 to join a growing suite of technologies deployed on the ISS providing key observations about Earth's environment.

"The largest uncertainties in the global carbon cycle concern the net impact of forest disturbance and subsequent regrowth on the amount of carbon stored in forest biomass and its impact on atmospheric CO2," said Ralph Dubayah, GEDI's principal investigator and a professor and assistant chair of the University of Maryland's Department of Geographical Sciences. "With these data from GEDI, we will advance our ability to model the role of forests in the carbon cycle and to evaluate the impact of potential policy actions to mitigate CO2 emissions, such as planting trees or reducing deforestation."

Source: National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech - Forest in Gabon