EMIT data will also be freely available for a wide range of investigations, including, for example, the search for strategically important minerals such as lithium and rare earth elements. Additionally, the instrument’s technology lays the foundation for the future Surface Biology and Geology (SBG) satellite mission, part of NASA’s Earth System Observatory, a set of missions aimed at combating the climate change.
EMIT has its roots in imaging spectrometer technology that NASA’s Airborne Imaging Spectrometer (AIS) first demonstrated in 1982. Designed to identify minerals on the Earth’s surface from a research aircraft at low altitude, the instrument provided startling results almost immediately. During initial test flights near Cuprite, Nevada, AIS detected the unique spectral signature of buddingtonite, a mineral that has not been seen on any previous geological maps of the area.
Paving the way for future spectrometers when it was introduced in 1986, AVIRIS – the airborne instrument that succeeded AIS – studied geology, plant functioning and alpine snowmelt, among other natural phenomena. He also mapped chemical pollution at Superfund sites and studied oil spills, including the massive Deepwater Horizon leak in 2010. And he flew over the World Trade Center site in Manhattan after the 9/11 attacks, locating uncontrolled fires and mapping the composition of the debris in the debris.
Over the years, as optics, detector arrays, and computing capabilities have advanced, imaging spectrometers capable of resolving smaller targets and more subtle differences have flown with missions across the solar system. .
An imaging spectrometer built by JPL on the Indian Space Research Organization’s Chandrayaan-1 probe measured signs of water on the Moon in 2009. NASA’s Europa Clipper, which will launch in 2024, will will rely on an imaging spectrometer to help scientists assess whether the icy Jovian moon has conditions that could support life.
Highly advanced spectrometers developed by JPL will be part of NASA’s upcoming Lunar Trailblazer – which will determine the form, abundance and distribution of water on the Moon and the nature of the lunar water cycle – and on satellites to be launched by the non-profit organization Carbon Mapper, aimed at pinpointing point sources of greenhouse gases from space.
“The technology has gone in directions I never imagined,” said Gregg Vane, the JPL researcher whose graduate studies in geology inspired the idea for the original imaging spectrometer. “Now, with EMIT, we’re using it to look at our own planet from space for important climate research.”
Learn more about the mission
EMIT was selected under the Earth Venture Instrument-4 solicitation of the Earth Science Division of the NASA Science Mission Directorate and was developed at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which is managed for the agency by Caltech in Pasadena, California. It was launched aboard a SpaceX Dragon resupply spacecraft from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on July 14, 2022. Data from the instrument will be transmitted to the Land Processes Distributed Active Archive Center (DAAC) at the NASA for use by other researchers and the public.
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