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Thursday, 20 April, 2000, 13:00 GMT 14:00 UK
Terra begins Earth monitoring
Nasa Terra
Terra map of vegetation and sea-surface temperature
By BBC News Online science editor Dr David Whitehouse

The Nasa Earth observation satellite Terra, launched last December, has completed its in-orbit checkout and sent back its first pictures.


Nasa Terra
Terra is now in full operation
Positioned in a polar orbit, the spacecraft passes all regions of the Earth at 1030 Hrs local time using its five onboard sensors to gather data.

Terra is the first satellite to monitor daily, on a global scale, how the Earth's atmosphere, lands, oceans, solar radiation and life influence each other. Scientists say that Terra will provide a new basis for evaluating climate change.

"Terra is measuring and documenting the Earth's vital signs, many of them for the first time," said Dr Yoram Kaufman, Terra Project Scientist at Nasa's Goddard Space Flight Center, in Maryland.

Earth's health

"Like our taking vital signs to check the state of our own health, these data will help us diagnose several key aspects of the Earth's health. The data will help us understand our planet, aid in our distinguishing between natural and human-induced changes, and show us how the Earth's climate affects the quality of our lives."


Nasa Terra
Close up of Reno airport, US
Scientists have released several images produced by Terra of the North American continent. Other first images are from the Indian sub-continent, showing the relationships among population concentrations, air pollution and vegetation.

"Terra data, along with other measurements from surface-based and aircraft instruments, provide much-needed inputs for Earth science models," Dr Kaufman concluded.

"This ultimately will enable scientists to predict more accurately future climate change."

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See also:

17 Dec 99 | Sci/Tech
Terra leaves the ground
19 Apr 00 | Sci/Tech
Planet Earth gets a makeover
29 Feb 00 | Sci/Tech
Satellite snaps a mighty sandstorm
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