Wednesday, September 29, 2021

NASA-ISRO Mission for tracking global environmental change

The rapid technological advances in Space are being put to use for the benefit of humanity. India is already using space technology for communication, telemedicine, education, information dissemination, monitoring weather, among others. Extending this deed, ISRO and US Space Agency NASA have collaborated in a joint Earth-Observation Mission named NISAR for global observations of overall landmasses. In a recent development, NISAR is proposed to be launched in early 2023, as suggested by Earth Sciences Minister Jitendra Singh.

What is NISAR?

NISAR is an SUV-sized satellite that is dedicatedly developed by the space agencies of the U.S and India for studying hazards and global environmental change. The mission that is equipped with the largest reflector antenna ever launched by NASA will measure Earth’s changing ecosystems and dynamic surfaces, spotting warning signs of imminent volcanic eruptions on one hand, and ice masses on the other, providing information about biomass, natural hazards, sea-level rise, and aid in monitoring groundwater supplies.

NISAR, the word finds its origin in NASA-ISRO-SAR, will observe Earth’s land with 12-day regularity on ascending and descending passes, sampling Earth on average every 6 days for a baseline 3-year mission.

The magic of SAR in NISAR:

Synthetic Aperture Radar or SAR refers to a technique for producing high-resolution images from a resolution-limited radar system that NASA will use to measure changes in Earth’s surface. Because of the utter precision, the radar can penetrate clouds and darkness, which means that it is capable of collecting data in any weather and at any time in the day and in night.

The NISAR spacecraft will accommodate two different fully capable synthetic aperture radar frequencies namely (L-band and S-band). NASA and ISRO are providing two radars

The 24 cm wavelength L-band Synthetic Aperture Radar (L-SAR) is by NASA, while a 10 cm wavelength S-band (S-SAR) is provided by ISRO. The SAR will measure the changes in our planet’s surface less than a centimeter across. In this way, SAR beats the resolution limits of what can physically be put in space to provide images.

NISAR is one of the crucial collaborations of ISRO and NASA. India and the US had agreed upon this mission during then-President Barack Obama’s visit to India in 2015. The major scientific objectives of the NISAR mission are to improve understanding of the impact of climate change on Earth’s dynamic ecosystem, land, and coastal processes, land deformations, and cryosphere.

Addressing an increasing exposure to Natural disaster

It is a known fact that humanity’s exposure to natural hazards is increasing more than ever. NISAR is designed to measure changes ranging from small movements of the crust up to volcanic eruptions, sea-level change, land subsidence, tsunamis, volcanoes, earthquakes, and landslides. There is a need to improve the understanding of forecasting in order to save thousands of people and billions of dollars in damage every year. NISAR’s global and rapid coverage will provide unprecedented opportunities for disaster response, providing data to assist in mitigating and assessing damage, with observations before and after disasters in short time frames.

Here, ISRO identified science and applications that were complementary to the primary mission objectives: Agricultural monitoring and characterization, landslide studies, Himalayan glacier studies, soil moisture, coastal processes, coastal winds, among others that are crucial for India.

As the ISRO’s motto says “Space Technology in the Service of Humankind,” the mission NISAR will harness space technology for national development, addressing an increasing exposure to Natural Disasters while mitigating disasters and sustaining resources.

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