Liftoff! NASA Finally Launches Major Climate Satellite After 2009 Failure

NASA successfully launched a rocket carrying its Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 satellite on July 2, 2014.

Third time's a charm for NASA.
The space agency successfully launched a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket carrying its Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) satellite to space early Wednesday morning from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The satellite will track greenhouse gases in an effort to uncover clues about climate change.

The successful liftoff comes after two failed attempts: one on Tuesday due to a technical error. The one in 2009, however, was catastrophic, and NASA lost a similar satellite that was also set to study carbon dioxide. It took a nosedive into the ocean near Antarctica after a hardware failure with the rocket.
But now the space agency is back on track with this latest satellite. OCO-2 is one of NASA's most important climate satellites because it could greatly advance our understanding of the carbon cycle at a time when the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, caused primarily by greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, is at an all-time high.
Scientists know much about the carbon cycle, but key questions remain unanswered regarding the size of some of the major carbon sources and sinks. Humans release nearly 40 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere annually, with about half of that getting absorbed by the land and oceans, and half remaining in the atmosphere for centuries.
According to NASA, the satellite will track carbon by looking at the wavelengths of sunlight that carbon dioxide absorbs.

The United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket sits on the launchpad minutes before liftoff on Wednesday morning.

The Delta II rocket successfully launches with NASA's OCO-2 satellite early morning on July 2, 2014.

Observers snap photos of Wednesday's rocket launch.
Additional reporting by Andrew Freedman

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