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Mission Monday: Operation IceBridge

Mission Monday! Or Tuesday, in this instance, thanks to the Labor Day holiday!

You probably know that NASA uses over a dozen satellites to study our planet, but did you know that there are ongoing missions right here on Earth? Using aircraft containing specialized instruments, NASA’s Operation IceBridge surveys the polar regions of our planet to learn more about ice, snow, and topography. This six-year mission was created to bridge a gap in polar ice data from two satellite missions, ICESat – which stopped collecting data in 2009 – and ICESat-2, planned to launch in 2016.

The data collected during Operation IceBridge campaigns allow us to have a clearer picture of changing ice conditions in the Arctic and Antarctic, including ice thickness and density, as well as of the topography of land below the ice. These data are used to produce amazing maps, including this visualization released last week, showing a huge canyon underneath the Greenland ice sheet. Researchers believe this 460-mile long canyon predates the ice sheet, and may play a key role in moving sub-glacial meltwater from the ice sheet to the Arctic Ocean.

Last year, as part of NASA Earth Science Week, we featured a blog post from Operation IceBridge Project Manager Christy Hansen. Not only did Hansen provide insight as to what it is like to work on such a cool mission, she shared a number of personal images as well. Her blog post is available here.

We will feature more information on this mission through our social media sites throughout the week, so stayed tuned!

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