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Learn More: Instruments

"Curiosity is the essence of our existence." – Gene Cernan

The primary science instrument planned for PACE is the Ocean Color Instrument (OCI) which will measure the color of the ocean from ultraviolet to shortwave infrared. PACE will also include two polarimeters to measure how the oscillation of sunlight within a geometric plane is changed when passing through clouds, aerosols, and the ocean. The synergistic payload of these instruments are poised to make significant breakthroughs in aerosol-cloud-ocean research.

What's New
A collaboration of missions [more]
PACE Paper Model
Monitoring aerosols from space

FAQs

Oh, that's a great question. There are many tests we want to do. The first type of tests are called performance testing. These tests make sure the instrument can gather the right amount of data, with the right calibration and the error bands that we want. So, one way we do that is we use a laser. We have a system called GLAMR (Goddard Laser for Absolute Measure of Radiance) that is a tunable laser and that allows us to tune the wavelength of light that goes into the instrument. This makes us sure that the instrument can measure those particular wavelengths. So we use those types of performance tests to make sure the instrument can collect the light that we want. So that's one type of testing.

Another type of testing we do is to make sure that the instrument can survive the rigors of launch and the space environment. So for those types of tests we will do a vibration test where we shake the instrument to make sure it stays together and doesn't fall apart during launch. We will also do thermal tests where we make the instrument very hot and then very cold and very hot and very cold to simulate the space environment as we orbit the earth to make sure it can survive.

So, in a nutshell, there are many tests I could go into, but we do performance tests and environmental tests.

Dr. Gary Davis, PACE Mission Systems Engineer, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Beyond Blue: Why Ocean Color Really Matters (30-Apr-19).
Red tides are one example of a harmful algal bloom and they are responsible for contaminating shell fisheries, and closing beaches, and fish kills. So, of course they're very very critical to getting a handle on. It's not always possible to visit the shore when you think these might happen. The satellites play an incredibly important role in identifying where these occur, when they're happening, and the duration of their occurrence so that this information can feed back into management decisions and watershed activities try to prevent a future occurrence of this. So the answer to your question is yes.

Dr. Jeremy Werdell, PACE Project Scientist, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Beyond Blue: Why Ocean Color Really Matters (30-Apr-19).
Yes, we do look at inland water bodies so long as those water bodies are big enough that the satellite footprint (1 km2 or 0.4 mi2) is only looking at water vs. a mixture of water and land. And I think off the top of my head there are on the order of 150 to 200 lakes inside of the continental United States that are resolvable from an instrument like PACE.

Dr. Jeremy Werdell, PACE Project Scientist, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Beyond Blue: Why Ocean Color Really Matters (30-Apr-19).
Twenty years of global biosphere
This data visualization shows a global representation of Earth’s plant life both in the ocean and on land from September 1997 through September 2017. Credit: NASA/GSFC.
Yes, and in fact that was one of the original reasons for developing ocean color from space technology. When you look at a place - again, going back to this visualization one more time, which if you couldn't tell is pretty much my absolute favorite - look in the northern (Atlantic) ocean between the United States and Europe, and you'll notice there that there are a lot of those rich reds and yellows that I was talking about that appear and disappear (over time). So again, we're looking for phytoplankton, and we're looking for what effectively is "fish food" in a way. Phytoplankton are eaten by bigger plankton that are then eaten by fish, and the chain of life continues. By using satellite imagery to see where there's a lot of this algal biomass in our water bodies, we are effectively able to make predications about where successful fishing might occur.

Dr. Jeremy Werdell, PACE Project Scientist, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Beyond Blue: Why Ocean Color Really Matters (30-Apr-19).
I don't know the exact number because the team is very large. I would say on the Instrument Team, we probably have roughly 200 people working on OCI. And then, on the Spacecraft Team, with all of the different spacecraft subsystems, we probably have another 100 or 150 all told working on it. And that's just the folks at Goddard Space Flight Center. In addition to the folks who are working here at NASA Goddard, we also have industry partners and university partners all across the country and all across the globe who are supplying different components and different instruments for the PACE mission. So, it does take a lot of people to make a space mission like this come together and it's really the combined efforts and craftsmanship of many people across the whole world to make this happen.

Dr. Gary Davis, PACE Mission Systems Engineer, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Beyond Blue: Why Ocean Color Really Matters (30-Apr-19).