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Coordinating an airborne lab across the globe with NASA's earth science project office
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Coordinating an airborne lab across the globe with NASA's earth science project office
by Clarence Oxford
Los Angeles CA (SPX) Jun 25, 2024

Tracking the spread of harmful air pollutants across large regions requires aircraft, satellites, and a diverse team of scientists. NASA's global interest in air pollution threats extends into Asia, where it collaborates with partners on the Airborne and Satellite Investigation of Asian Air Quality (ASIA-AQ). This mission integrates satellite data, aircraft measurements, local air quality monitoring, and modeling efforts across Asia.

Orchestrating a mission of this scale requires complex agreements between countries, coordination of aircraft and scientific instrumentation, and mobilization of scientists globally. ARC's Earth Science Project Office (ESPO) facilitated each phase of the campaign, from site preparation and aircraft deployment to data management and public outreach.

"Successfully meeting the ASIA-AQ mission logistics requirements was an incredible effort in an uncertainty-filled environment and a very constrained schedule to execute and meet those requirements," explains ASIA-AQ Project Manager Jhony Zavaleta. "Such effort drew on the years long experience on international shipping expertise, heavy equipment operations, networking and close coordination with international service providers and all of the U.S. embassies at each of our basing locations."

Understanding air quality globally
ASIA-AQ enhances our understanding of air quality and the factors controlling its daily variability by investigating how air quality can be observed and quantified. The airborne measurements collected during the campaign are integrated with satellite observations, local monitoring networks, other ground assets, and models to provide a level of detail otherwise unavailable, advancing the understanding of regional air quality and improving future integration of satellite and ground monitoring data.

The flying laboratory of NASA's DC-8
NASA flew its DC-8 aircraft, equipped with instruments to monitor the quality, source, and movement of harmful air pollutants. Scientists onboard used the space as a laboratory to analyze data in real-time and share it with a network of researchers addressing this global issue.

"Bringing the DC-8 flying laboratory and US researchers to Asian countries not only advances atmospheric research but also fosters international scientific collaboration and education," said ESPO Project Specialist Vidal Salazar. "Running a campaign like ASIA AQ also opens doors for shared knowledge and exposes local communities to cutting-edge research."

Fostering partnerships through expertise and goodwill
International collaboration fostered through this campaign contributes to ongoing discussions about air pollution between Asian countries.

"NASA's continued scientific and educational activities around the world are fundamental to building relationships with partnering countries," said ESPO Director Marilyn Vasques. "NASA's willingness to share data and provide educational opportunities to locals creates goodwill worldwide."

ESPO's role in strategizing and executing project plans globally created a path for multi-sectoral community engagement on air quality. These efforts to improve air quality science directly inform efforts to save lives from this hazard that affects all.

Related Links
Airborne and Satellite Investigation of Asian Air Quality (ASIA-AQ).
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