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Breaking Records, Returning Asteroid Samples Among NASA’s Big 2023


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In 2023, as NASA pushed the limits of exploration for the benefit of humanity, the agency celebrated astronaut Frank Rubio becoming the first American astronaut to spend more than one year in space; delivered samples from an asteroid to Earth; sent a spacecraft to study a metal-rich asteroid for the first time; launched multiple initiatives to share climate data; advanced developments in sustainable aircraft; all while continuing preparations to send the first Artemis astronauts to the Moon.

“This year, NASA continued to make the impossible, possible while sharing our story of discovery with the world,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “We’ve launched missions that are helping tell the oldest stories of our solar system; continued to safely transport astronauts to the International Space Station to conduct groundbreaking science; our Earth satellites are providing critical climate data to all people; we’re making great strides to make aviation more dependable and sustainable; and we’re growing our commercial and international partnerships as we venture back to the Moon and on to Mars. NASA is home to the world’s finest workforce, and there is no limit to what we can achieve when we work together.”

In support of the Biden-Harris Administration’s efforts to address climate change, NASA is leading the development of U.S. government-wide initiatives focused on bringing Earth science information to the public. The Earth Information Center, a new interactive exhibit at NASA Headquarters in Washington, also includes an online experience that invites visitors to see Earth as NASA sees it from space while providing critical data needed by researchers and policymakers.

Among other notable mentions, the agency’s James Webb Space Telescope – the largest, most powerful telescope humanity has ever put in space – celebrated one year of science. NASA and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) announced the two organizations will partner on DRACO (Demonstration Rocket for Agile Cislunar Operations) to test a nuclear-powered rocket in space as soon as 2027.

This year NASA celebrated 25 years of International Space Station operations as the agency continued to foster the growth of the commercial space economy, supporting the development of commercial space station partnerships. It also marks the 65th anniversary of the agency. While celebrating these achievements, NASA also unveiled its NASA 2040 vision for the agency to ensure it remains a global leader in aerospace for decades to come.

Below are additional highlights of NASA’s endeavors in 2023 to explore the unknown in air and space, innovate for the benefit of humanity, and inspire the world through discovery.

Understanding Our Changing Planet

NASA has used its unique vantage point of space to better understand our changing planet since launching its first Earth science satellites in the 1960s. In 2023, NASA’s Office of the Chief Scientist established a cross-agency working group and released a climate strategy. Other agency efforts to share scientific data on Earth.gov and other areas include:

  • Working with its partners, NASA launched the U.S. Greenhouse Gas Center, opening access to trusted data on greenhouse gases.
    • Data from NASA’s Earth Surface Mineral Dust Source Investigation (EMIT) instrument aboard the International Space Station is part of the gas center. EMIT identifies point-source emissions of greenhouse gases with a proficiency greater than expected.
  • NASA’s tracking of greenhouse gases includes both global and focused estimates.
  • Building on the month-by-month worldwide temperature data collected and released by NASA and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration both agencies are expected to announce soon 2023 was the warmest year in recorded history.
  • A NASA airborne campaign helped show that methane ‘hot spots’ in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta are more likely to be found where recent wildfires burned into the tundra, altering carbon emissions from the land.
  • After successfully launching to space earlier this year, NASA’s TEMPO (Tropospheric Emissions: Monitoring of Pollution) mission to study air quality now is successfully transmitting information about major air pollutants over North America.
  • NASA’s SWOT (Surface Water and Ocean Topography) mission offered the its first detailed perspectives of Earth’s surface water.
  • Among natural hazards, NASA data was put to use in monitoring the heavy rains occurring in the drought-stricken areas, heat waves, wildfires, and subsequent health affects worldwide, as well as expansion of NASA landslide data.

Advancing Moon to Mars Exploration

This year, NASA shared results of its first Moon to Mars Architecture Concept Review as it builds a blueprint for human exploration throughout the solar system for the benefit of humanity. The agency also continues to take significant steps toward landing the first woman and first person of color on the Moon as part of Artemis. Notably in 2023, NASA announced crew for the Artemis II mission, the first Artemis mission with astronauts around the Moon and back to Earth. The crew completed fundamentals training, and is now focusing on training for mission operations. Additional highlights for human deep space exploration include:

  • All major elements for the SLS (Space Launch System) rocket for Artemis II are complete or nearing completion including booster segments delivered to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida and final core state assembly testing at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans.
  • Upgrades and refurbishments continue at Kennedy with the mobile launcher and launch pad, including a water flow test and launch operations simulation.
  • NASA made progress on Artemis III, which will send the first humans to explore the region near the lunar South Pole, building on the previous flight tests and adding a human landing system and advanced spacesuits for moonwalks.
  • The solid rocket booster segments and the four RS-25 engines are complete for the Artemis III SLS, as well as three of the five major core stage elements. Teams are integrating elements of Orion’s crew module, and the European Service Module.
  • NASA selected the geology team to develop a lunar surface science plan for Artemis III.  
  • Beyond Artemis III, teams completed welding the primary structure for Gateway’s HALO (Habitation and Logistics Outpost), where astronauts will live and work in lunar orbit. Fabrication is complete on the primary structure of the Power and Propulsion Element that will provide power, communications, and maintain Gateway’s orbit.
  • In addition to other hardware assembly and certification work for later missions, Artemis V will include a lunar terrain vehicle. NASA asked SpaceX to further develop Starship for Artemis IV, and also selected Blue Origin to develop a human lunar lander for Artemis V.
  • Experiments aboard the International Space Station focused on helping astronauts go farther and stay longer in space. This research included growing sustainable crops such as dwarf tomatoes, understanding how microbes adapt to space to protect crew health, and developing innovative materials that can weather the harsh environments of the Moon and Mars.

To support future NASA Moon missions with crew, the agency’s CLPS (Commercial Lunar Payload Services) initiative is in the final phases of preparations for the first two launches and landings to deliver NASA science and technology demonstrations to the lunar surface.

  • Five NASA payloads are aboard Astrobotic’s Peregrine Mission 1 lander, which is set to launch no earlier than Monday, Jan. 8. Soon after, another six NASA payloads will launch no earlier than Friday, Jan. 12, aboard Intuitive Machine’s Nova-C spacecraft.
  • Since launching CLPS, NASA has contracted with five companies for eight deliveries to the lunar surface. Most recently in 2023, NASA selected Firefly Aerospace for a delivery.
  • Among future CLPS payloads is NASA’s first robotic lunar rover, VIPER – short for the Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover. The rover will trek into permanently shadowed areas to unravel the mysteries of the Moon’s water and better understand the environment. In preparation for a landing in late 2024, scientists named VIPER’s mission area in honor of NASA mathematician Melba Roy Mouton. Development, assembly and testing also continues for the rover’s solar and battery systems.

While NASA is leading Artemis, international partnerships are a key part of advancing Moon to Mars exploration. In 2023, 10 additional countries signed the Artemis Accords, which lay out a common set of principles governing the civil exploration and use of outer space. So far, 33 countries have signed the Artemis Accords.

Maintaining Low Earth Orbit Operations

Closer to Earth, the International Space Station – humanity’s home in space – passed 25 years of operations. NASA and its partners officially extended operations plans for the microgravity science laboratory for the benefit of humanity. Other space station milestones in 2023 include:

  • NASA and SpaceX continued regular crew rotation flights to and from station, helping maximize science in space, including:
    • NASA astronauts Frank Rubio, Nicole Mann, Josh Cassada, Stephen Bowen, Woody Hoburg, Loral O’Hara, and Jasmin Moghbeli lived and worked aboard the station.
    • Rubio spent a U.S. record-breaking 371 days in space, contributing to a better understanding of long-duration spaceflight as we explore beyond our home planet.
    • Crew-5 returned to Earth with Mann and Cassada, as well as JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Koichi Wakata, and Roscosmos cosmonaut Anna Kikina. Crew members tested hydroponic and aeroponic techniques to grow plants without using soil, released Uganda and Zimbabwe’s first satellites, studied how liquids move in a container in simulated lunar gravity to generate data to improve Moon rover designs, and reinstalled the station’s bioprinting facility.
    • Crew-6 included Bowen and Hoburg, as well as UAE (United Arab Emirates) astronaut Sultan Alneyadi and Roscosmos cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev. The crew assisted a student robotic challenge, studying plant genetic adaptations to space, and monitoring human health in microgravity. The crew also released Saskatchewan’s first satellite, which tests a new radiation detection and protection system.
    • Crew-7 carried Moghbeli, ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Andreas Mogensen, JAXA astronaut Satoshi Furukawa, and Roscosmos cosmonaut Konstantin Borisov. This crew is conducting a variety of scientific research in areas such the collection of microbial samples from the exterior of the space station, the first study of human response to different spaceflight durations, and a study on astronaut’s sleep.
  • NASA and Boeing continued to make progress on the company’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft. Starliner and its crew of NASA astronauts Barry Wilmore and Sunita Williams are preparing for the first flight with astronauts in 2024, the final demonstration prior to regular flights to the microgravity complex.
  • Space station crew members completed 12 spacewalks to upgrade and conduct maintenance at the orbiting laboratory before the year’s end. NASA astronauts continued work to install the International Space Station Rollout Solar Arrays (IROSA), which will increase power generation capability by up to 30% when fully complete.
  • Six commercial cargo missions and international partner missions delivered about 28,000 pounds of science investigations, tools, and critical supplies to the space station. By year’s end about 12,500 pounds of investigations and equipment are planned to be returned researchers on Earth.
  • Space station crew members welcomed the second NASA-enabled private astronaut mission, Axiom Mission 2, to the orbital complex advancing the agency’s goal of commercializing low-Earth orbit. NASA also selected Axiom Space for the third private astronaut mission and signed an order for the fourth mission with the company.

Some additional key investigations launched, and operating, on station included NASA and ISS National Lab releasing a joint solicitation to address the goals of the Biden-Harris Administration’s Cancer Moonshot initiative, which aims to conduct science in space to help cure disease on Earth; NASA’s ILLUMA-T (Integrated Laser Communications Relay Demonstration Low-Earth-Orbit User Modem and Amplifier Terminal) is now on station, which aims to test high data rate laser communications via the agency’s LCRD (Laser Communications Relay Demonstration); upgraded NASA’s Cold Atom Laboratory to continue pioneering quantum discovery in space; and launched and installed its Atmospheric Wave Experiment on station to provide insight into how terrestrial weather impacts space weather, which may affect satellite communications and tracking in orbit.

Also on the commercial front, NASA partnered with seven U.S. companies with unfunded Space Act Agreements, and released its third Request for Information for commercials space station services, while working toward a formal call for proposals to provide the agency with low Earth orbit services after the space station’s retirement. Commercial space station partners met major design and engineering milestones, and are on track to serve as potential replacements for the agency’s microgravity research needs. Two companies also are combining efforts, which will allow NASA to apply funding to the other stations to accelerate development.

Reaching Farther into Solar System, Beyond

As part of its first year of operations, NASA’s Webb telescope pulled back the curtain on some of the farthest galaxies, stars, and black holes ever observed; solved a longstanding mystery about the early universe; found methane and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of a planet outside our solar system; and offered new views and insights into our own cosmic backyard. Additional achievements beyond the solar system included:

  • NASA made important contributions to two missions that international partners launched this year: ESA’s Euclid mission to study dark energy and dark matter, as well as JAXA’s XRISM mission, a powerful new satellite that will revolutionize how we understand the hot, X-ray universe.
  • The Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope, NASA’s next flagship observatory, finished camera assembly, and its coronagraph instrument passed its first big optics test.

Autumn was host to mission milestone events that showcased the importance of our solar system’s smaller bodies.

  • NASA’s OSIRIS-REx (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, and Security-Regolith Explorer) spacecraft capped its seven-year journey with the successful deposit of a pristine sample of surface material from the asteroid Bennu in the Utah desert.
  • NASA showed off material from the asteroid Bennu for the first time. Initial studies of the 4.5-billion-year-old asteroid Bennu sample collected in space and brought to Earth show evidence of high-carbon content and water, which together could indicate the building blocks of life on Earth may be found in the rock.
  • The Psyche spacecraft launched from NASA Kennedy toward the asteroid Psyche.
  • NASA’s Lucy spacecraft conducted its first target asteroid flyby of asteroid Dinkinesh at the inner edge of the main asteroid belt, and the first images now are online.
  • An annular eclipse occurred on Oct. 14, visible in parts of the United States, Mexico, and many countries in South and Central America. NASA supported the event with engagement activities, as well as science research. Three Black Brant IX sounding rockets were launched to study the ionosphere – an electrically charged layer of the atmosphere – before, during, and after the peak eclipse.

NASA also kicked off Heliophysics Big Year, a public engagement campaign to make science and information accessible to all and showcase heliophysics-related efforts.

Technology Innovations to Benefit All

NASA’s Deep Space Optical Communications experiment launched aboard the Psyche spacecraft and achieved first light, beaming back a laser encoded with test data from nearly 10 million miles away. NASA will demonstrate data transmission rates 10 to 100 times greater than current radio frequency systems. The following are additional space technology advancements:

Evolving Aviation’s Frontier

In 2023, NASA advanced aviation and aeronautics technologies to improve passenger experiences, stimulate U.S. economic growth, and create a future of cleaner, quieter, safer skies. Through its Sustainable Flight National Partnership and other efforts, NASA supported the U.S. goal of reaching net-zero aviation greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, and the agency released a new strategic implementation plan to guide research for the next 20 years and beyond. NASA also:

  • Made new progress in its Quesst mission, as the X-59 quiet supersonic experimental aircraft had its tail structure installed and was moved from the assembly facility for structural testing.
  • Worked with Boeing on the Sustainable Flight Demonstrator project to produce and test the X-66A, a full-sized, experimental transonic truss brace wing aircraft that will inform a new generation of sustainable airliners.
  • Enhanced transonic truss braced wing research for sustainable aircraft designs using wind tunnel tests for model wings and supercomputing to look at aircraft concepts.
  • Used NASA’s DC-8 flying lab to test emissions from Boeing’s ecoDemonstrator Explorer aircraft to evaluate sustainable aviation fuels’ effects on contrails..
  • Progressed its Electrified Powertrain Flight Demonstration project, which works to create hybrid powertrains for regional and single-aisle aircraft, with GE Aerospace and magniX testing power systems and demonstrator aircraft
  • Entered into an agreement with the U.S. Air Force AFWERX Agility Prime program that will allow NASA to test a new air taxi from the manufacturer Joby Aviation to see how such vehicles could fit into the national airspace
  • Debuted the Advanced Capabilities for Emergency Response Operations project, which uses drones and advanced aviation technologies to improve wildland fire coordination and operations, and tested a mobile air traffic management kit.
  • Demonstrated a breakthrough, 3D-printable, high-temperature-resistant alloy called GRX-810 that could be used for applications like components of aircraft and rocket engines.

Aeronautics efforts led to advancements in construction of the Flight Dynamics Research Facility, the agency’s first major wind tunnel in more than 40 years. NASA used simulators to collect data on how operating electric air taxis could affect pilots and passengers, and gathered data on new ways to use aviation including autonomous air cargo delivery and air taxi operations. Finally, research from the X-57 Maxwell provided aviation researchers with hundreds of lessons learned, as well as revolutionary development in areas ranging from battery technology to cruise motor control design.

Maintaining Focus on Advancing DEIA, Reaching Diverse Communities

NASA remained committed to advancing diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) at NASA and the STEM industry in 2023. NASA also took its “The Color of Space” documentary on a road tour, providing free in-person screenings at historically Black colleges and universities, conferences, and festivals nationwide. And, the agency made its Spot the Station app available for download in multiple languages.  

As part of its plans to reach more audiences, NASA continued to focus on developing Spanish-language content. This year, the agency digitally released its second issue of the “First Woman: Expanding Our Universe,” graphic novel series in English and Spanish. NASA also:

Inspiring New Generation of STEM Students

Through a variety of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) outreach activities, NASA continues to inspire the Artemis Generation of students and encourage them to become the next scientists, engineers, and astronauts. NASA conducts its STEM work through partnering with key organizations, awarding a variety of grants, and more. Many of these efforts tie closely to NASA’s DEIA activities. Other STEM highlights in 2023 include:

  • Awarded $11.7 million to eight Historically Black Colleges and Universities through the new Data Science Equity, Access, and Priority in Research and Education opportunity. These awards will enable students and faculty to conduct innovative data science research that contributes to NASA’s missions.
  • Partnered with the U.S. Department of Education to strengthen the collaboration between the two agencies, including efforts to increase access to high-quality STEM and space education to students and schools across the nation; and partnered with U.S. Forest Service to bring Artemis Moon Trees to schools and education institutions through NASA’s Artifact Module. NASA received more than 1,200 requests.
  • NASA announced its first women’s universities and college awards, as part of a Biden-Harris Administration initiative. The awards provided more than $5 million in funding to seven women’s colleges and universities to research and develop strategies that increase retention of women in STEM degree programs and careers.
  • Among Earth to space calls, Louisiana, Wyoming and Rhode Island hosted their first downlinks with the space station crew and students.
  • NASA’s Human Rover Exploration Challenge hosted student competitors in-person for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 500 students from around the world participated.
  • Issued the NASA Space Tech Catalyst Prize to expand the agency’s network of proposers and foster effective engagement approaches within NASA’s Early-Stage Innovations and Partnerships portfolio.
  • Invited teams to participate in NASA’s TechRise Student Challenge to design, build, and launch science and technology experiments on commercial suborbital rockets and high-altitude balloons. Summer 2023 marked a series of flight tests that successfully flew 80 student payloads on high-altitude balloons with Aerostar and World View.
  • By partnering with Minecraft to inspire students in a game-based learning platform, children were encouraged to build and launch rockets on Moon adventures in the Minecraft universe.
  • NASA’s Space Technology Research Grants program, which supports academic researchers, surpassed a significant milestone, having funded more than 1,000 grants pursuing exciting space technology research since.

NASA’s Growing Public Engagement Efforts

Public Engagement remains a cornerstone of NASA’s mission to share the agency’s work with the world by participating in opportunities to engage the public in a variety of venues, activities, and events. NASA continued to connect with more people than ever before:

  • Grew the agency’s social media following to 389.5 million so far in 2023 – up 18 percent from 330 million in 2022. 
  • Shares on social media posts across the agency reached 6.36 million in 2023, lower than the 2022 total (8.7 million shares).
  • NASA accounts reached follower milestones this year, passing 78 million (X), 26 million (Facebook) and 97 million (Instagram). NASA’s flagship YouTube channel passed 11 million. 
  • NASA elevated its digital platforms by revamping its flagship and science websites, adding its first on-demand streaming service, and upgrading the NASA app. With these changes, everyone now has access to a new world of content from the space agency.
  • NASA’s new streaming service, NASA+, launched on Nov. 8, and as of Nov. 28 had 38,000 hours of content watched. The NASA app had about 34 million lifetime installs across all platforms.
  • Apple Podcasts Latin America selected “Universo Curioso de la NASA” as a “Show We Loved” in 2023. This is the first time a NASA podcast has received this recognition.  
  • NASA podcasts surpassed 8 million all-time plays on Apple Podcasts this year.
  • Supported White House events to reach the public in new and engaging ways including participating in the White House Easter Egg Roll, bringing in astronauts and STEM activities we engaged over 30,000 visitors, including students and children, with more than 148,000 mentions on social media across all platforms, as well as participating in Halloween at the White House engaging 6,000 local schoolchildren and military families with STEM activities.
  • Worked with Elmo to introduce a video greeting from NASA astronauts aboard the space station for the Independence Day celebration and concert.
  • NASA centers around the country hosted more than 1,289 in-person and virtual events with local, regional, national, and international reach, and engaged with more than 6.3 million people through these efforts.
  • Participated in one of the largest state fairs in the United States in Columbus, Ohio, reaching an estimated 100,000 of the one million attendees through talks.
  • Hosted an in-person International Observe the Moon Night, an annual celebration of lunar science and exploration, for the first time since 2019.
  • NASA’s Arts program curated the first exhibition of work from the NASA art collection titled “Launching the Future: Looking Back to Look Forward” and displayed 16 pieces at the National Academy of Sciences.
  • Since opening its doors, NASA’s Earth Information Center has received more 3,400 visitors and hosting more than 1,500 guided tours.
  • More than 100 eligible schools, universities, museums, libraries, and planetariums applied to participate in the NASA Artifacts Module program to receive more than 200 historic NASA objects for their STEM programs.
  • NASA Administrator Bill Nelson was among the participants for “Our Blue Planet, A Concert Celebrating Earth, and its Waters.”
  • Snoopy’s zero-gravity indicator rode on NASA’s Artemis I mission and was returned to Peanuts, and now is on public display at the Schulz Museum.
  • NASA partnered with Google Arts & Culture on a digital artist project titled ‘A Passage of Water’ that incorporated NASA freshwater data from the SWOT mission and GRACE (Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment) satellites.
  • NASA partnered with Crayola Education for its 2023 Creativity Week, reaching 3.5 million kids with Artemis information and creative activities.
  • The U.S. Postal Service issued an OSIRIS-REx postal stamp in association with the return of the asteroid Bennu sample in September.
  • NASA approved and collaborated on 96 documentaries, 21 TV, Web and streaming shows, 16 feature films, and five immersive experiences, including the Tom Hanks’ new immersive experience “Moonwalkers” and ARTCHOUSE’s “Beyond the Light,” and an upcoming collaboration with influencer, “Mr. Beast.”
  • NASA received 4,500 requests for NASA branded merchandise and/or novelty items from notable brands like Adidas, Garmin, Wham-O, LEGO, Prada, Crate + Barrel, Pottery Barn Kids, Odyssey Toys, H+M, Casio Electronics, Smithsonian, GAP, Round 2, Timex, Sprayground and many more.
  • Published its branding guidelines as part of the NASA Brand Center.
  • Collaborated with Amazon Studios on the “A Million Miles Away” film, starring Michael Peña, telling the story of retired NASA astronaut Jose Hernandez. Rubio narrated a special video from space highlighting Hernandez and other Latino pioneers for Hispanic Heritage Month.
  • Celebrated designer Richard Danne with an agency Exceptional Public Achievement Medal for his outstanding achievement in creating the NASA worm logotype.
  • Collaborated on more than a dozen Artemis documentaries with outlets ranging from PBS to National Geographic/Disney. The Artemis II crew was featured on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, The Talk, and at the “Guardians of the Galaxy” premiere. Artemis II NASA astronaut Victor Glover participated in the premieres of National Geographic’s “The Space Race” at the Tribeca Film Festival and DC/Dox. 
  • Attracted major talent for various mission-related projects and outreach initiatives, including: Chris Pratt, Harry Styles, Lance Bass for the Annular Solar Eclipse, Aisha Tyler, Adam Driver, Paul Rudd, Scarlett Johansson, Jeffrey Wright, Jason Schwartzmann, and an International Space Station downlink with Post Malone for Earth Day
  • NASA also participated in concerts at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts for Earth Day and Wolf Trap for “Star Wars” and Holst’s “The Planets.” 
  • Feature films included “A Million Miles Away” and Disney’s “The Marvels” were uploaded to the International Space Station for the astronauts to enjoy at their leisure.
  • More than 1 million people around the world joined NASA’s Message in a Bottle campaign, inviting people to sign their names to a special message that will travel 1.8 billion miles on the agency’s Europa Clipper mission to explore Jupiter’s icy moon Europa. The message, a poem titled “In Praise of Mystery: A Poem for Europa,” written by U.S. Poet Laureate Ada Limón, will be engraved on the robotic spacecraft.

For more about NASA’s missions, research, and discoveries, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov

-end-

Faith McKie / Cheryl Warner
Headquarters, Washington
202-358-1600
faith.d.mckie@nasa.gov / cheryl.m.warner@nasa.gov

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      charles.e.blue@nasa.gov / karen.fox@nasa.gov
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      A lot has changed since the publication of the last GEDI STM summary. (See Summary of the GEDI Science Team Meeting in the July–August 2022 issue of The Earth Observer [Volume 34, issue 4, pp. 20–24]). When the GEDI ST convened in November 2022, the fate of GEDI was hanging in the balance, with the plan being to release GEDI from the ISS at the end of its second extension period.
      NASA saved the instrument, however, and a new plan went into effect: in order to extend its tenure on the ISS, the GEDI mission entered a temporary period of “hibernation” in March 2023 after nearly four years in orbit. This hibernation period and movement of the instrument from Exposed Facility Unit (EFU)-6 (operating location) to EFU-7 (storage location) made way for another mission – see Figure 1. (UPDATE: After being in storage for roughly 13 months, the GEDI instrument was returned to its original location on the Japanese Experiment Module–Exposed Facility (JEM–EF) on Earth Day this year, April 22, 2024, and is now once again back to normal science operations using its three lasers.)
      Figure 1. NASA’s GEDI instrument was moved from EFU-6 to EFU-7 on the ISS on March 17, 2023, where it remained in hibernation for 13 months until its recent reinstallation to EFU-6 on April 22, 2024. The instrument is once again back to normal science operations using its three lasers. Figure credit: NASA As The Earth Observer reported in 2023, data from GEDI are being used for a wide range of applications, including biomass estimation, habitat characterization, and wildfire prediction (See page 4 of The Editor’s Corner in the March–April 2023 issue of The Earth Observer [Volume 35,Issue 2, pp. 1–4]. This section also reports on GEDI’s extension via out-of-cycle Senior Review in 2022). GEDI data is used to develop maps to quantify biomass that are unique in both their accuracy and their explicit characterization of uncertainty and are a key component in the estimation of aboveground carbon stocks, as absorbed carbon is used to drive plant growth and is stored as biomass – see Figure 2. These estimations help quantify the impacts of deforestation and subsequent regrowth on atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration. NASA’s choice to extend the GEDI mission has significantly broadened the capacity to collect more of these important data.
      Figure 2. Country-wide estimates of total aboveground biomass in petagrams (Pg) using GEDI Level-4B Version 2.1 dataset (GEDI_L4B_AGB). Figure credit: ORNL DAAC DAY ONE
      GEDI Mission Operations, Instrument Status, and Data Level Updates
      Ralph Dubayah [UMD—GEDI Principal Investigator (PI)] opened the meeting with a summary of the current status of the mission and GEDI data products. After reviewing the details of GEDI’s hibernation (described in the previous section) he went on to describe what GEDI has accomplished over the past 4.5 years of operations, noting that the instrument collected over 26 billion footprints over the land surface.
      All the data collected by GEDI during its first epoch (i.e., before its hibernation) have been processed and released to the appropriate Distributed Active Archives Centers (DAACs) as Version 2 (V2) products. (To learn more about the DAACs and other aspects of Earth Science data collection and processing, see Earth Science Data Operations: Acquiring, Distributing, and Delivering NASA Data for the Benefit of Society, in the March–April 2017 issue of The Earth Observer, [Volume 29, Issue 2, pp. 4–18]. The DAACs – including URL links to each – are listed in a Table on page 7–8 of this issue). The two DAACs directly involved with GEDI data processing are the Land Processes DAAC (LP DAAC) and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) DAAC. The LP DAAC houses GEDI Level-1 (L1) data, which consists of geolocated waveforms, and L2 data, which is broken down into L2A and L2B. L2A data includes ground elevation, canopy height, and relative height metrics. (Waveform measurements are described in detail in a sidebar on page 32 of the Summary of the Second GEDI Science Team Meeting in the November–December 2016 issue of The Earth Observer [Volume 28, Issue 6, pp. 31–36].) L2B data includes canopy cover fraction (CCF) and leaf area index (LAI). The ORNL DAAC houses GEDI L3 gridded land surface metrics data, L4A footprint level aboveground biomass density data, and L4B gridded aboveground biomass density data – e.g., see Figure 2.
      Dubayah went on to explain that while GEDI hibernated, the mission team would work to enhance existing data products as well as produce new products. Version 3 (V3) datasets for all data products are expected to be released by the fall of 2024, and new data products are in development, including a waveform structural complexity index (WSCI) and a topography and canopy height product that blends data from GEDI and the Ice, Clouds, and land Elevation Satellite–2 (ICESat–2) mission. A new dataset, the GEDI L4C footprint level waveform structural complexity index (WSCI) product, was added to the ORNL DAAC catalogue in May 2024. To further improve data quality and coverage, the GEDI team is hoping to organize an airborne lidar field campaign to southeast Asia in the coming years. Dubayah concluded his updates by highlighting a set of six papers published in 2023 in Nature and Science family or partner journals that focused on the use of GEDI data. Visit our website for a comprehensive list of publications related to GEDI.
      After receiving a general update from the mission PI, the next several presentations gave meeting participants a more in-depth look at GEDI science data planning and individual data products. Scott Luthcke [NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC)—GEDI Co-Investigator (Co-I)] presented status updates for the GEDI Science Operating Center (SOC), including the Science Planning System (SPS) and Science Data Processing System (SDPS) automation, development, and processing. In addition, he reported on the status of the L1 geolocated waveform data product and the L3 gridded land surface metrics product. At the time of this meeting, the SPS had completed operations through mission week 223 – almost 4.5 years of data – and was beginning to transition to improving processes on the back end while GEDI hibernates. The SDPS had completed processing and delivery of all V2 data products to the LP DAAC and ORNL DAAC.
      Luthcke reported on GEDI’s current observed and estimated geolocation performance, including detailed summaries of component analysis and steps towards improving Precision Orbit Determination (POD), Precision Attitude Determination (PAD), Pointing Calibration, time-tag correction, and Oven Controlled Crystal Oscillator (OCXO) calibration. GEDI passes over Salar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt flat located in Bolivia – see Figure 3, are being used to assess the PAD high-frequency and low-frequency errors. Estimated errors are shown to be consistent with observed geolocation errors. Finally, Luthcke gave a summary of completed L3 products and new wall-to-wall 1-km (0.62-mi) resolution and high-resolution products.
      Figure 3. Salar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt flat as seen from the International Space Station. Figure credit: Samantha Cristoforetti/ESA/NASA John Armston [UMD—GEDI Co-I] updated attendees on GEDI L2 products. L2A consists of elevation and height metrics, and L2B consists of canopy cover and vertical profile metrics. To assess GEDI ground and canopy top measurement accuracy and improve algorithm performance, the mission team is using data collected from NASA Land, Vegetation, and Ice Sensor (LVIS) campaigns from 2016 to present. Armston reported that L2B estimates of canopy and ground reflectance were completed for the first mission epoch (April 2019–March 2023) and the GEDI team continues to work on algorithm improvements for cover estimates in challenging conditions (e.g., steep slopes). Data users can expect improved waveform processing for ground elevation and canopy height, new reflectance estimation, and revised quality metrics and flags in the L2A and L2B not-yet-released V3 products.
      Jim Kellner [Brown University—GEDI Co-I] shared the current status of and planned algorithm improvements to the L4A data product, or the footprint-level aboveground biomass density product. The algorithm theoretical basis document for L4A data products was published in November 2022; it describes how models were developed and the importance of quality filtering. L4A data product development continues in tandem with updates to L2A data and improvements to existing calibration and validation data and ingestion of new data.
      Sean Healey [U.S. Forest Service—GEDI Co-I] reviewed coverage and uncertainties of the recently produced V2 L4B data products – see Figure 4. Ongoing GEDI-relevant research includes:
      investigating a statistical method called bootstrapping, which may allow more complex types of models; conducting theoretical statistical studies aimed at decomposing mean square error for model-based methods; and developing ways to estimate biomass change over time – which will become more important as the extended mission potentially stretches to a decade. Figure 4. Gridded mean aboveground biomass density [top] and standard error of the mean [bottom] from Version 2.1 of the GEDI L4B Gridded Aboveground Biomass Density product, published on October 29, 2023. Figure credit: ORNL DAAC Competed Science Team Presentations—Session 1
      This GEDI STM was the last convergence of the first iteration of the GEDI competed ST. Attendees received final in-person updates on the cohort’s projects and plans for future research. Over the course of the three-day meeting, there were several sections dedicated to Competed ST Presentations. For purposes of organization in this report, each section has been given a session number. 
      Taejin Park [NASA’s Ames Research Center (ARC) and Bay Area Environmental Research Institute (BAERI)] kicked off the ST presentations with an overview of his group’s progress in enhancing the predictions of forest height and aboveground biomass by incorporating GEDI L2, L3, and L4 data products into a process-based model, called Allometric Scaling Resource Limitation (ASRL), over the contiguous United States (CONUS). The ASRL model effectively captures large-scale, maximum tree size distribution and facilitates prognostic applications for predicting future aboveground biomass changes under various climate scenarios. Park also described collaborative research efforts with international partners  to map changes in aboveground biomass in tropical and temperate forests using a carbon management systems (CMS).
      Kerri Vierling [University of Idaho] shared the results from her team’s projects demonstrating the use of GEDI data fusion products to describe patterns of bird and mammal distributions in western U.S. forests. The focal species for these projects include a suite of vertebrate forest carnivores, prey, and ecosystem engineer species that modify their environments in ways that create habitat for other creatures, e.g., woodpeckers – see Figure 5. Many of these species are of interest for management by a variety of state and federal agencies. Vierling also discussed ongoing analyses identifying biodiversity hotspots and land ownership patterns.
      Figure 5. A Female downy woodpecker creates a tree cavity that other organisms may use in the future for habitat. Woodpecker species are great examples of ecosystem engineers. Figure credit: Doug Swartz/Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab or Ornithology (ML 58304661) Sean Healey presented on his competed ST research on Online Biomass Inference using Waveforms and iNventory (OBI-WAN), a Google Earth Engine application. This forest-carbon reporting tool harnesses GEDI waveforms, biomass models, and statistics to make estimates of mean biomass and biomass change for areas specified by online users. Healey explained the statistical methods applied to operate OBI-WAN and gave context for the use of sensor fusion to provide biomass change information that is critical for monitoring, reporting, and verification.
      Keith Krause [Battelle] presented his work evaluating vertical structural similarity of LVIS classic and GEDI large-footprint waveforms. At the GEDI and LVIS footprint scale (20–23 m, or 65–75 ft, spot on the ground), lidar waveforms over forests represent canopies of leaves and branches from several trees. Krause presented results comparing waveforms against each other to show similarities in shape (i.e., if the trees in their footprints have a similar vertical structure). He also described how he used data clustering techniques to group similar waveforms into distinct structural classes. From there, he could map waveforms with similar vertical structure to better understand the spatial distribution of the structural groups.
      Breakout Sessions—Session 1
      GEDI STMs offer a rare opportunity for members of the competed and mission STs, a variety of stakeholders, and other individuals to convene and discuss ideas and goals for their own research and for the GEDI mission. Toward that end, breakout sessions were held on the first and second day of the meeting – referred to as Session 1 and Session 2 in this report. The individual breakout meetings used a hybrid format allowing in-person and online participants to join the discussion that was most relevant to their interests and expertise.
      Chris Hakkenberg [Northern Arizona University (NAU)] led a breakout session on structural diversity, including the horizontal and vertical components. Different structural attributes, (e.g., stand structure, height, cover, and vegetation density) have different – but related – metrics and measurement approaches. Participants discussed biodiversity-structure relationships (BSRs), how to better characterize horizontal structural diversity, and how to define which metrics (i.e., scale, sampling unit, and spatial resolution) are most meaningful in different situations.
      Jim Kellner led a session that focused on biomass calibration and validation and how to create the best data products given global environmental variation. Special cases – e.g., mangroves – pose challenges for calibration and validation because they don’t always have as much plot-level data as other environments. Participants discussed how to determine strata while considering climactic and environmental covariates as well as constraints of data availability and consistency.
      Competed Science Team Presentations—Session 2
      The FORest Carbon Estimation (FORCE) Project is exploring the use of GEDI-derived canopy structure metrics to map forest biomass in the U.S. and Canada. Daniel Hayes [University of Maine] presented comparisons of GEDI metrics and canopy height models derived from airborne lidar and photo point clouds over different forest types and disturbance history in managed forests of Maine. Co-PI Andy Finley [Michigan State University] presented new work that adjusts GEDI L4B biomass estimates to plot data over the continental U.S. from Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Research and Development Branch. The project’s next steps are to fuse GEDI canopy structure metrics with other covariates in a spatial model to produce wall-to-wall estimates of biomass for boreal–temperate transition forests in northeast North America.
      GEDI data is also being used to study tropical forests. Chris Doughty [NAU] described how he and his team analyzed GEDI L2A data across all tropical forests and found that tropical forest structure was less stratified and more exposed to sunlight than previously thought. Most tropical forests (80% of the Amazon and 70% of southeast Asia and the Congo Basin) have a peak in the number of leaves at 15 m (49 ft) instead of at the canopy top. Doughty and his team have found that deviation from more ideal conditions (i.e., lower fertility or higher temperatures) lead to shorter, less-stratified tropical forests with lower biomass.
      Paul Moorcroft [Harvard University] reported on studies of current and future carbon dynamics across the Pacific Coast region based on forest structure and rates of carbon uptake. Moorcroft’s group examined how these ecosystems will behave in the future under different climate scenarios and have plans to conduct similar studies in other regions.
      DAY TWO
      Naikoa Aguilar-Amuchastegui [World Bank] kicked off day two with his perspective on the importance of streamlining the monitoring, reporting, and validation (MRV) process from scientific estimation to actual use of the data. Once scientific data is generated, end users are often faced with challenges related to transparency and understandability. Scientists can better communicate how to use their datasets properly, by familiarizing themselves with who wants to use their data, why they want to use it, and what their needs are. With this information in mind, data can be presented in more practical ways that allow for a variety of institutions with different standards and frameworks to integrate GEDI data more easily into their reporting. As the GEDI team continues to produce high-quality maps, efforts are underway to connect with end users and provide tutorials, workshops, and other resources.
      GEDI Demonstrative Products
      Demonstrative products show how GEDI data can be used in practice and in combination with other resources. Ecosystem modeling is one way that GEDI data are being used to address questions about aboveground carbon balance, future atmospheric CO2 concentrations, and habitat quality and biodiversity. George Hurtt [UMD—GEDI Co-I] shared his progress on integrating GEDI canopy height measurements with the Ecosystem Demography model to estimate current global forest carbon stocks and project future sequestration gaps under climate change – see Figure 6. Hurtt emphasized that this unprecedented volume of lidar data significantly enhances the ability of carbon models to capture spatial heterogeneity of forest carbon dynamics at 1 km (0.6 mi) scale, which is crucial for local policymaking regarding climate mitigation.
      Figure 6. [Top] Average lidar canopy height at 0.01° resolution, computed by gridding both GEDI and ICESat-2 together, and carbon stocks [middle] and fluxes [bottom] from ED-Lidar (GEDI and ICESat-2 combined). The insets highlight fine-scale spatial distribution and coverage gaps at selected regions (1.5° × 1.5°). Note that the three maps show grid-cell averages aggregated from sub-grid scale heterogeneity for each variable. Figure credit: From a 2023 article in Global Change Biology. There is also great potential for the development and application of methods for mapping forest structure, carbon stocks, and their changes by fusing data from GEDI and the Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt’s (DLR) [German Space Operations Center] TerraSAR-X Add-oN for Digital Elevation Measurement (TanDEM-X) satellite mission, which uses synthetic aperture radar (SAR) to gather three-dimensional (3D) images of Earth’s surface. This fusion product is being spearheaded by Wenlu Qi [UMD], who presented on efforts to create maps of pantropical canopy height, biomass, forest structure, and biomass change using the fusion product as well as maps of forests in temperate U.S. and Hawaii.
      Data from the GEDI mission are also being used to quantify the spatial and temporal distribution of habitat structure, which influences habitat quality and biodiversity. Scott Goetz [NAU—GEDI Deputy PI] presented on biodiversity-related activities, citing a 2023 paper in Nature that examined the effectiveness of protected areas (PAs) across southeast Asia using GEDI data to compare canopy structure within and outside of PAs – see Figure 7. He also presented an analysis of tree and plant diversity across U.S. National Ecological Observation Network (NEON) sites that showed similar capabilities of GEDI with airborne laser scanning (ALS) for tree diversity.
      Figure 7. [Top] Protected Areas (PAs) such as national parks can reduce habitat loss and degradation (from logging) and extractive behaviors such as hunting (shown in red circle), but this figure shows there are a wide range of real-world outcomes based on management effectiveness. [Middle] PAs are aimed at safeguarding multiple facets of biodiversity, including species richness (SR), functional richness (FR) and phylogenetic diversity (PD). PAs often focus on vertebrate conservation, owing to their threat levels and value to humans – including for tourism. This study focused on wildlife in southeast Asia, with mammals shown here representing a variation of feeding guilds and sizes. The same approach is repeated for birds. [Bottom] Wildlife communities inside PAs and in the surrounding landscape may exhibit distinct levels and types of diversity. Figure credit: From a 2023 article in Nature. Competed Science Team Presentations—Session 3
      One unique application of GEDI data is using lidar height to improve radiative transfer models for snow processes. Steven Hancock [University of Edinburgh, Scotland] reported on his group’s work studying snow, forest structure, and heterogeneity in forests, explaining that the majority of land surface models used for climate and weather forecasting use one-dimensional (1D) radiative transfer (RT) models driven by leaf area alone. Heterogeneous forests cast shadows and cause the surface albedo to depend upon sun angle and tree height for moderate leaf area indices (LAI), i.e., LAI values from  1-3 – which are common in snow-affected areas. This complexity cannot be represented in 1D models. An RT model can represent the effect of tree height and horizontal heterogeneity to simulate the observed change in albedo with height, which itself spatially varies.
      In contrast to a snowy study area, Ovidiu Csillik [NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory] and his team are developing statistical models to link GEDI relative height metrics to tropical forest characteristics traceable to inventory measurements. This dataset of forest structure variables over the Amazon will be used to initialize a demographic ecosystem model to produce projections of future potential tropical forest carbon, as demonstrated by Amazon-wide simulations using initializations from airborne lidar sampling.
      Wenge Ni-Meister [Hunter College of the City University of New York] is working on improving aboveground biomass estimates using GEDI waveform measurements. Ni-Meister and her team are testing models in both domestic and international tropical and temperate forests.
      Breakout Sessions—Session 2
      Two more breakout sessions occurred on day two:  
      Sean Healey led a discussion on modes of inference for GEDI data. Inference – formally derived uncertainty for area estimates of biomass, height, or other metrics – can take different forms, each of which includes specific assumptions. In this breakout session, participants considered the strengths and limitations of different inference types (e.g., intensity of computation or the ability to use different models).
      Laura Duncanson [UMD—GEDI Co-I] led a discussion about facilitation of open science, in other words, how to make GEDI data more accessible and digestible for data users. While GEDI data area free and publicly available via the LP DAAC and ORNL DAAC, gaining access to said data can be intimidating. Sharing more about existing resources and creating new ones can help remove barriers. The LP DAAC and ORNL DAAC have excellent tutorials on GitHub (a cloud-based software development platform that is primarily Python-based), and Google Earth Engine applications are available for accessing and visualizing GEDI data. Future endeavors may include more webinars, R-based tutorials, workshops, and trainings on specific topics and ways to use GEDI data. More information is available via an online compilation of GEDI-related tutorials.
      Perspective: A NUVIEW of Earth’s Land Surface
      For the second perspective presentation of day two, meeting attendees heard from Clint Graumann, CEO and co-founder of NUVIEW, a company whose mission is to build a commercial satellite constellation of lidar-imaging satellites that will produce 3D maps of the Earth’s entire land surface. Graumann shared NUVIEW’s intent to produce land surface maps on an annual basis and provide a variety of products and services, including digital surface models (DSMs), digital terrain models (DTMs), and a point cloud generated by laser pulses.
      Competed Science Team Presentations—Session 4
      Laura Duncanson began the second round of science presentations with her group’s research on global forest carbon hotspots. She discussed her 2023 paper in Nature Communications on the effectiveness of global PAs for climate change mitigation – see Figure 8, which found that the creation of PAs led to more biomass – especially in the Amazon. Within GEDI-domain terrestrial PAs, total aboveground biomass (AGB) storage was found to be 125 Pg, which is around 26% of global estimated AGB. Without the existence of PAs, 19.7 Gt of the 125 Pg would have likely been lost.
      Figure 8. PAs effectively preserve additional aboveground carbon (AGC) across continents and biomes, with forest biomes dominating the global signal, particularly in South America. The additional preserved AGC (Gt) in WWF biome classes (total Gt + /− SEM*area). World base map made with Natural Earth. The full set of analyzed GEDI data are represented in this figure (n = 412,100,767). Figure credit: From a 2023 article in Nature Communications. Another unique application of GEDI data has to do with water on the Earth’s surface. Kyungtae Lee [UMD], who works with Michelle Hofton [UMD—GEDI Co-I], reported that GEDI appears to capture the monthly annual cycle of lake elevation, showing good correlation with the ground-based observations. Lee explained that even though the GEDI lake elevation estimates show systematic biases relative to the local gauges, GEDI captures lake elevation dynamics well – especially the annual cycle variations. This work has the potential to expand knowledge of hydrological significance of lakes, particularly in data-limited areas of the world. Stephen Good [Oregon State University] presented a survey of his team’s recent work integrating observations from GEDI into hydrology and hydraulics studies of how vegetation can block and intercept moving water. The team found important nonlinear relationships between inferred canopy storage and canopy biomass and were able to estimate canopy water storage capacities and map these globally.
      Finally, Patrick Burns [NAU], who works with Scott Goetz, presented results using GEDI canopy structure metrics in mammal species distribution models across southeast Asia (specifically focusing on Borneo and Sumatra). The team’s early results indicate that GEDI canopy structure metrics are important in many mammal distribution models and improve model performance for another smaller subset of species. In other words, when looking at predictors like mean annual precipitation or forest structure (forest structure being a metric that GEDI data provide), the GEDI-derived structure metrics are more intuitive and help us understand distributional changes and fine-scale habitat suitability. In a region like southeast Asia, for example, which has undergone high rates of deforestation in the recent decades, forest structure may be a more relevant predictor in a species distribution model (SDM) than other metrics like climate or vegetation composition. The team will continue to produce models for additional species and expand the extent of the analysis to include mainland Asia.
      DAY THREE
      Competed Science Team Presentations—Session 5
      Day three began with the meeting’s last round of competed ST presentations. John Armston presented the progress of GEDI L2B Plant Area Volume Density (PAVD) product validation using a global Terrestrial Laser Scanning (TLS) database and fusion of the L2B product with Landsat time-series for quantifying change in canopy structure from the Australian wildfires of 2019–2020. Participants then heard from Jim Kellner on using machine-learning algorithms for L4A aboveground biomass density (AGBD). The performance of machine-learning algorithms on a testing data set was comparable to linear regressions used for the first releases of GEDI AGBD data products on average – although there were important geographical differences associated with machine learning. One application under investigation is using machine learning to identify new potential stratifications for GEDI footprint aboveground biomass density.
      Lastly, Jingyu Dai [New Mexico State University (NMSU)], who works with Niall Hanan [NMSU], presented on her analysis of the global limits to tree height. Her study shows that hydraulic limitation is the most important constraint on maximum canopy height globally. This result is mediated by plant functional type. In addition, rougher terrain promotes forest height at sub-landscape scales by enriching local niche diversity and probability of larger trees.
      Perspective from the Data Side
      As described in the summary of Ralph Dubayah’s introductory remarks, the LP DAAC and ORNL DAAC play essential roles in the dissemination of GEDI data and the success of the GEDI program. Representatives from each of these DAACs addressed the ST to summarize recent GEDI-related activities.
      Aaron Friesz [United States Geological Survey (USGS)] represented the LP DAAC and gave an update on the current archive size, distribution metrics, and outreach activities. He also discussed plans to support the growth and sustainability of the community through collaboration activities that will leverage the GitHub application; he described some of the resources that are available. Friesz then highlighted the USGS Eyes on Earth podcast and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Geoscience and Remote Sensing Society (GRSS)’s Down to Earth podcast, which have featured Ralph Dubayah and Laura Duncanson, and shared plans to update the current GitHub tutorials and how-to guides in the Earthdata Cloud of GEDI V2 and V3.
      Rupesh Shrestha [ORNL] represented the ORNL DAAC and shared the status of GEDI L3, L4A, and L4B datasets archived there. He gave an overview of data tools and services for the GEDI datasets, which can be found on the GEDI website and GitHub tutorials website. GEDI L3, L4A, and L4B are available on NASA’s Earthdata Cloud and various enterprise-level services, such as NASA’s WorldView, Harmony, and OpenDAP. GEDI data usage metrics, data tutorials and workshops, and outreach activities, as well as other published community and related datasets were also highlighted. GEDI L3, L4A, and L4B have been downloaded over four million times collectively.
      Neha Hunka [UMD] gave the final presentation of the meeting on biomass harmonization activities. She reported that the GEDI estimates of aboveground biomass are capable of directly contributing to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Global Stocktake. Hunka and her colleagues’ research is aimed at bridging the science–policy gap to enable the use of space-based aboveground biomass estimates for policy reporting and impact – see Figure 9.
      Figure 9. Forest biomass estimates in the format of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Tier 1 values from NASA GEDI and ESA Climate Change Initiative (CCI) maps. Figure credit: Neha Hunka Conclusion
      Overall, the 2023 GEDI STM showcased an exceptional array of scientific research that is highly relevant to addressing pressing global challenges and answering key questions about global forest structure, carbon balance, habitat quality, and biodiversity among other topics. As the GEDI instrument enters its second epoch, we are excited to welcome a new competed GEDI science team cohort and look forward to the release of V3 data products later this year.
      Ralph Dubayah concluded the STM with a summary of hibernation period goals and a farewell to this iteration of the competed ST. He extended a heartfelt thank you and farewell to Hank Margolis [NASA Headquarters, emeritus] who has been the NASA Program Scientist for the GEDI mission since 2015. Thank you, Hank. We will miss you.
      Talia Schwelling
      University of Maryland, College Park
      tschwell@umd.edu
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    • By NASA
      Representatives from NASA, FEMA, and the planetary defense community participate in the fifth Planetary Defense Interagency Tabletop Exercise on April 2 and 3, 2024, to discuss the nation’s ability to respond effectively to the threat of a potentially hazardous asteroid or comet.Credits: NASA/JHU-APL/Ed Whitman NASA will host a virtual media briefing at 3:30 p.m. EDT, Thursday, June 20, to discuss a new summary of a recent tabletop exercise to simulate national and international responses to a hypothetical asteroid impact threat.
      The fifth biennial Planetary Defense Interagency Tabletop Exercise was held April 2 and 3, 2024, at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland.
      NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office, in partnership with FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) and with the assistance of the U.S. Department of State Office of Space Affairs, convened the tabletop exercise to inform and assess our ability as a nation to respond effectively to the threat of a potentially hazardous asteroid or comet. This exercise supports NASA’s planetary defense strategy to protect our planet and continues the agency’s mission to innovate for the benefit of humanity.
      Video of the briefing will stream live on NASA TV and NASA’s YouTube channel.
      The following participants will review the history and purpose of the exercise, the scenario encountered during this year’s simulation, and its findings and recommendations:
      Lindley Johnson, NASA’s Planetary Defense Officer Emeritus, NASA Headquarters, Washington Leviticus “L.A.” Lewis, FEMA detailee to NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office, NASA Headquarters Terik Daly, planetary defense section supervisor, Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, Maryland To register for the briefing, media must RSVP no later than two hours before the event to Alise Fisher at alise.m.fisher@nasa.gov. NASA’s media accreditation policy is available online.
      While there are no known significant asteroid impact threats for the foreseeable future, hypothetical exercises like this one, which are conducted about every two years, provide valuable insights on how the United States could respond effectively if a potential asteroid impact threat is identified.
      This year’s exercise was the first to include participation by NASA’s international collaborators in planetary defense and the first to have the benefit of actual data from NASA’s successful DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) mission, the world’s first in-space technology demonstration for defending Earth against potential asteroid impacts.
      NASA established the Planetary Defense Coordination Office in 2016 to manage the agency’s ongoing efforts in planetary defense.
      To learn more about planetary defense at NASA, visit: 
      https://science.nasa.gov/planetary-defense/
      -end-
      Charles Blue / Karen Fox
      Headquarters, Washington 
      202-802-5345 / 202-358-1600
      charles.e.blue@nasa.gov / karen.fox@nasa.gov
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      Last Updated Jun 14, 2024 LocationNASA Headquarters Related Terms
      Planetary Defense Coordination Office Planetary Defense Planetary Science Division Science & Research Science Mission Directorate View the full article
    • By European Space Agency
      Europe’s newest rocket soon launches, taking with it many space missions, each with a unique objective, destination and team at home, cheering them on. Whether launching new satellites to look back and study Earth, peer out to deep space or test important new technologies in orbit, Ariane 6’s first flight will showcase the versatility and flexibility of this impressive, heavy-lift launcher. Read on for all about GRBBeta, then see who else is flying first.
      View the full article
    • By NASA
      2 min read
      Voyager 1 Returning Science Data From All Four Instruments
      An artist’s concept of the Voyager spacecraft. NASA/JPL-Caltech The spacecraft has resumed gathering information about interstellar space.
      NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft is conducting normal science operations for the first time following a technical issue that arose in November 2023.
      The team partially resolved the issue in April when they prompted the spacecraft to begin returning engineering data, which includes information about the health and status of the spacecraft. On May 19, the mission team executed the second step of that repair process and beamed a command to the spacecraft to begin returning science data. Two of the four science instruments returned to their normal operating modes immediately. Two other instruments required some additional work, but now, all four are returning usable science data.  
      The four instruments study plasma waves, magnetic fields, and particles. Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 are the only spacecraft to directly sample interstellar space, which is the region outside the heliosphere — the protective bubble of magnetic fields and solar wind created by the Sun.
      While Voyager 1 is back to conducting science, additional minor work is needed to clean up the effects of the issue. Among other tasks, engineers will resynchronize timekeeping software in the spacecraft’s three onboard computers so they can execute commands at the right time. The team will also perform maintenance on the digital tape recorder, which records some data for the plasma wave instrument that is sent to Earth twice per year. (Most of the Voyagers’ science data is sent directly to Earth and not recorded.)
      Voyager 1 is more than 15 billion miles (24 billion kilometers) from Earth, and Voyager 2 is more than 12 billion miles (20 billion kilometers) from the planet. The probes will mark 47 years of operations later this year. They are NASA’s longest-running and most-distant spacecraft. Both spacecraft flew past Jupiter and Saturn, while Voyager 2 also flew past Uranus and Neptune.
      News Media Contact
      Calla Cofield
      Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
      626-808-2469
      calla.e.cofield@jpl.nasa.gov
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