NASA Set to Check Out Your Carbon Footprint

Allison Loudermilk

Orbiting Carbon Observatory

The observatory will send back "'precise measurements" of how much carbon dioxide is hanging around the Earth's atmosphere by zooming around the planet with a gang of five other satellites. Every 16 days for at least two years, it will record some 8 million measurements, according to a NASA press release. The space agency is hoping the mission will resolve some of the questions surrounding how much carbon dioxide the Earth can swallow up and for how long. Let's hope the observatory is up to the massive data-gathering task.

So far, no word on how the observatory's launch will or won't contribute to the amount of said carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Does NASA? Either way, their Jet Propulsion Laboratory does stress that the phone-booth-sized craft will operate on a mere 400 to 500 watts of electricity.

If you're curious, look at NASA's video on the observatory or keep up with Eric Ianson's blog, he's the go-to guy behind the mission.

Related HowStuffWorks Articles: How Carbon Footprints Work How Carbon Tax Works NASA's 10 Greatest Achievements