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NASA is preparing to launch a cutting-edge, laser-armed satellite that will spend three years studying Earth's changing ice sheets from above.
Called the Ice, Cloud and Land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2), the mission is currently scheduled to launch in mid-September. The satellite will be able to measure the changing thickness of individual patches of ice from season to season, registering increases and decreases as small as a fifth of an inch (half a centimeter).
"The areas that we're talking about are vast — think the size of the continental U.S. or larger — and the changes that are occurring over them can be very small," Tom Wagner, a NASA scientist studying the world's ice, said during a news conference yesterday (Aug. 22). "They benefit from an instrument that can make repeat measurements in a very precise way over a large area, and that's why satellites are an ideal way to study them." [How NASA Is Tracking Earth's Melting Arctic Sea Ice (Video)
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