APL's TIMED Mission Extended Through 2010
By Kristin Marren
Since its launch in 2001, NASA's TIMED spacecraft,
built and operated by Johns Hopkins'
Laboratory, has been exploring one of Earth's last
atmospheric frontiers, collecting valuable data during
various phases of the solar cycle. The TIMED community will
now have the opportunity to further its studies of Earth's
atmosphere because the mission will begin an extended
campaign in October, with operations and data analysis
continuing through 2010.
The next phase of the mission will investigate the
response of Earth's middle and upper atmosphere (the
mesosphere and lower thermosphere/ionosphere, or MLTI) to
solar and geomagnetic phenomena not previously separated
during the last solar cycle. For the first time, TIMED
scientists will obtain long-term measurements of the sun's
activities and effects on the MLTI region. This will enable
scientists to better understand this atmospheric region's
variability and its effects on communications, satellite
tracking, spacecraft lifetimes, degradation of spacecraft
materials and the re-entry of piloted vehicles.
TIMED also joins the Heliophysics Great Observatory, a
collection of NASA's sun-Earth-focused missions. "TIMED is
a key mission within the Great Observatory focusing on the
combined sun-Earth effects on our planet's middle and upper
atmosphere," said Sam Yee, TIMED project scientist from
"During the next phase of our mission, we'll embark on
new investigations to better understand the mechanisms
leading to the escape of our upper atmosphere," Yee said.
"Investigating the processes behind the loss of oxygen and
hydrogen will help us understand the evolution of other
planetary atmospheres including Venus and Mars. TIMED's
extended mission will bring insights into atmospheric
evolution and perhaps the fate of Earth's atmosphere."
TIMED's continued study of solar effects on Earth's
atmosphere will also help set the stage for future NASA
Heliophysics missions, such as those within its Living With
a Star program that focus on better understanding the sun's
effects on life and society.
During the extended mission, managed by NASA Goddard
Space Flight Center, APL will continue to lead the
project's science efforts and manage the mission's Science
Data Center. For more information, go to
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