WASHINGTON, Jan. 23 (UPI) -- NASA says five Earth science missions will be launched into space in 2014, the busiest science launch program in more than a decade.
The five launches, including two to the International Space Station, are part of an active year for NASA Earth science researchers, who will use satellites and aircraft to help scientists and policymakers find answers to critical challenges including climate change, sea level rise, decreasing availability of fresh water, and extreme weather events, the space agency said Thursday.
The first NASA Earth science mission of 2014 will be the Global Precipitation Measurement Core Observatory, a joint satellite project with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency as part of an unprecedented international satellite constellation that will produce the first nearly global observations of rainfall and snowfall, NASA researchers said.
The precipitation measurement spacecraft, built at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., is set to launch Feb. 27 from JAXA's Tanegashima Space Center on a Japanese H-IIA rocket.
Other 2014 missions will include the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2, to make precise, global measurements of carbon dioxide, and the Soil Moisture Active Passive mission to track Earth's water into one of its last hiding places, the soil.
"As NASA prepares for future missions to an asteroid and Mars, we're focused on Earth right now," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said. "With five new missions set to launch in 2014, this really is shaping up to be the year of the Earth, and this focus on our home planet will make a significant difference in people's lives around the world."