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NASA's Aquarius Launched To Help Map the Oceans' Salt 64

oxide7 writes "NASA launched a satellite featuring an brand-new instrument which will be able to measure the saltiness of Earth's oceans. Data from the Aquarius/SAC-D spacecraft will help scientists understand better the processes that drive ocean circulation and the movement of freshwater around the planet."
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NASA's Aquarius Launched To Help Map the Oceans' Salt

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  • But (Score:5, Funny)

    by JustOK ( 667959 ) on Sunday June 12, 2011 @07:44AM (#36416622) Journal

    But, the ocean is in the other direction!

    • I keep trying to think of a properly worded joke along the lines of "just use taste testers." Not working.

  • Vocabulary (Score:5, Funny)

    by pjt33 ( 739471 ) on Sunday June 12, 2011 @08:02AM (#36416670)

    This is Slashdot. It's ok to use words like "salinity" in the summary.

  • I tried to look up the mechanism of how microwave data is interpreted to give salinity levels, but all I could find in a quick hunt was some IEEE papers which were over my head. Anyone here care to give a summary of the method?

    The article below has more technical details than the submitted link: []

    (Off topic true story: A friend was once head of his college IEEE chapter. A freshman from another country who was just joining brought him a check to cover the membership mad

    • There's a very nice website at: I can't find anything that describes how they do it, but there's a list of interesting email addresses here [].
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Salinity and temperature are the only things that alter the energies emitted and reflected by the ocean at certain centimetre wavelengths (frequency, 1.43 GHz). The atmosphere is almost transparent - no pesky gas, cloud or mostly rain. After that, you've got to model the galactic radiation which is also reflected and causes a lot of problems- luckily it's well known as it doesn't alter quickly very often.

        BTW, the NASA Aquarius web site talks sheer nonsense that this is first salinity satellite. SMOS, laun

    • by Anonymous Coward

      IIRC, salinity affects the dielectic properties of the seawater. The microwaves will be reflected at changes in dielectric properties.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The instrument is a kind of radar called a scatterometer. It measures the amount of L-band (1400 MHz-ish) power reflected back by the ocean's surface. If you compare the amount scattered back in Horizontal and Vertical polarization, you can tell the dielectric properties of the water (mostly conductivity changes). In general, the reflection in vertical polarization (perpendicular to the surface) is more strongly affected b

  • by Anonymous Coward

    More info:

  • "This mission is the most outstanding project in the history of scientific and technological cooperation between Argentina and the United States,"

    That's why the acronym is SAC and not SSA (Satélite de Aplicaciones Científicas - Satellite for Scientific Applications). I think it's just another satellite... This was newsworthy in Argentina only because there are very few local satellites (I can only recall past iterations of SAC). Even the president talked [] about this, "it is a matter of great pride for our people" (elections are near - the uranium enrichment facility is timed for 2 weeks before the presidential election's second round). But g

  • Quick question: where are the lines drawn between NASA's and NOAA's responsibilities?

    • Quick question: where are the lines drawn between NASA's and NOAA's responsibilities?

      NASA has much, much more satellite experience than NOAA so the responsibilities are often shared. On the other hand attempting to share "ownership" (as opposed to a single owner with well defined, shared responsibilities) led to a situation where a "White House Office of Science and Technology report concluded that NPOESS’ management structure was unsalvageable" (Warning: the provided link may have nothing to do with Aquarius...and may be entirely with caution): http://www.defenseind []

  • The last two climate satellites were lost due to "Launch Failures". One which was supposed to measure global carbon emissions at the highest resolution to date. I guess this one was not much of a threat to those who deny climate change.

    • by hjf ( 703092 )

      It just had to. The SAC-D satellite was built in Argentina, by a government-owned company. And elections are nearby. It would be a shame to our president if the launch failed :D

    • The last two climate satellites were lost due to "Launch Failures". One which was supposed to measure global carbon emissions at the highest resolution to date. I guess this one was not much of a threat to those who deny climate change.

      You know there are medications that can help people like you, right?

    • It's as big a threat to deniers as any satellite. It's just that the connection isn't as direct as some of the others. Understanding salinity and ocean surface temperatures are essential to understanding things like density, evaporation and how currents run which in turn affect the climate. The increase understanding will allow better accuracy for inputs into climate models which should improve their accuracy.

  • OK, just to clarify the article: the "collaboration" of Argentina in this project consisted in the design, construction, tracking, and operation of the satellite. The SAC-D is an Argentine satellite for the most part, built in collaboration with NASA and France, Italy and Canadian space agencies.

    So the aquarius is an instrument on board of an Argentine satellite.

    I think the measuring of salinity is a very cool project that could help understand global-scale weather. But the fact that a country considered a

    • by Anonymous Coward

      If only... If only...
      Due to our typical third world/banana republic status:
      Yes, we have 2 nuclear plants working another in the making, 50 years in the making!
      yes, we have uranium mines and enrichment facilities, gathering dust thanks to dirty politicians doing what USA wants.
      We HAD ICBMs! project CONDOR-2, also shutdown by USA.
      Not to mention the lastest coup de etat, USA believes Argentina is gonna go commie like Chile and bam goes the coup...
      Our cars are mostly assembled with imported parts...
      Import of hi

      • by hjf ( 703092 )

        Nada les viene bien. Nada.

        Y encima posteas anonimo, puto.

        • Jaja, muy bueno. Son como el perro del hortelano, no cojen ni dejan cojer. Imaginate lo que va a ser si el satélite llega a fallar, van a brindar con champagne como la vez pasada... Bueno, otro palito en el orto de la derecha cipaya. Saludos y agradecimiento a los científicos argentinos por el logro. *Algunos* compatriotas estamos orgullosos de ustedes.
    • by RFQ2me ( 2260352 )
      It's curious that american media calls this project "Aquarius/SAC-D", while argentinian media calls it "SAC-D/Aquarius"... It seems everybody wants to be the father of the child...
      • by hjf ( 703092 )

        It's SAC-D. Aquarius is the main instrument, built by NASA, while the rest sat was built in Argentina and tested in Brazil. The other instruments onboard are mostly Argentine but also Canada, Italy and France participated. []

  • The Aquarius/SAC-D salinity-sensing instrument is not exactly brand-new. It is an L-band microwave radiometer based on the same principle as the one on the SMOS satellite launched in October 2009. Still, it helps to have more satellites monitoring the oceans.
  • by Vandil X ( 636030 ) on Monday June 13, 2011 @02:27AM (#36422718)
    Whenever I think of a spacecraft named "Aquarius," I think of the LM that the Apollo 13 astronauts used as a lifeboat to survive the trip back to Earth after their Service Module was damaged after launch. After delivering those astronauts safely back to LEO and being heroically jettisoned into the atmosphere to meet her demise, that spacecraft deserved to have its name retired.

Man will never fly. Space travel is merely a dream. All aspirin is alike.