In a one-hour media briefing held on Friday, NASA revealed the latest details about its "golden house" sea level-monitoring satellite, Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich. The satellite has been referred to as the "golden house" due to its strange shape that resembles a golden home.
The satellite was discussed with much excitement not only because it is a highly successful U.S.-European partnership but also because it was named after famed Dr. Michael Freilich, the former director of NASA's Earth Science Division and a dedicated advocate for advancing satellite measurements of the ocean.
The satellite is set to launch on November 10 on a SpaceX rocket and will begin a five-and-a-half-year journey to collect the most accurate data yet on global sea level and how our oceans are changing and rising in response to climate change.
"We live on a blue marble and it's blue because of the 70% that is covered by oceans (...) What we tend to forget is that nearly 80% of the world's population lives near oceans and 90% of all commerce internationally comes from the seas. So the oceans are part of every one of our lives and this focus on them is very appropriate. It's the last great frontier," said Thomas Zurbuchan, Associate Administrator, Science Mission Directorate, NASA.
Indeed, the Earth's oceans and atmosphere are deeply connected. The sea absorbs more than 90% of the heat trapped by rising greenhouse gases causing them to expand. Meltwater from glaciers and ice sheets also contribute to dangerous levels of sea rise putting us into increasingly dire situations.
To fully grasp how rising seas will impact humanity, scientists need long climate records. These records are something Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich can produce and the satellite will also follow through on work already done by the Jason series of satellites.
"The Earth is a global system of intricate and dynamic interactions between the ocean, land, ice, the atmosphere, and also human communities. And that global system is changing. Increasingly decision-makers trying to understand those changes are turning to the Earth science community," said Karen St Germain, Director, Earth Science Division, NASA.
Sentinal-6 will help provide answers to those decision-makers including improving weather forecasts by providing meteorologists information on atmospheric temperature and humidity.
Last but not least, the Sentinel-6 "golden house" satellite is being developed in cooperation with ESA, EUMETSAT, NASA, and NOAA, with funding support from the European Commission and technical support from CNES. We look forward to receiving news on its many future findings.