In this talk, Dr. Dave Rusch will provide a historical and scientific review of LASP satellite observations of the Earth’s atmosphere, emphasizing two missions with high science return and significant student involvement in both science and operations.
The Solar Mesosphere Explorer (SME) was launched in 1981. The science mission included the first measurements of ozone in the Earth’s mesosphere. The science results were important to understanding the chemistry and structure of this region of the atmosphere, and data from the mission are still being utilized in atmospheric studies. SME was the first NASA satellite to be operated in space by a university, a significant breakthrough in cost and especially in educational opportunities for students.
The second mission of historical interest is the Student Nitric Oxide Explorer (SNOE), built and operated by LASP and launched in 1999. Students were involved in the design, fabrication, and testing of the four instruments on board, and analysis of the data. Its scientific goals were to measure nitric oxide density in the terrestrial lower thermosphere (100-200 km altitude) and analyze the energy inputs to that region from the Sun and magnetosphere that create it and cause its abundance to vary. Nitric oxide is one of the most easily ionized gasses in the upper atmosphere and acts as a cooling agent in the lower thermosphere. In addition, it is a major chemical destroyer of atmospheric ozone. SNOE is one of three satellite projects selected for the Student Explorer Demonstration Initiative program (STEDI). STEDI is funded by NASA and managed by the Universities Space Research Association (USRA). Dr. Rusch will explore the scientific results of each of these historic missions and put them in the context of current scientific understanding.
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