Arctic scientists iced out by US–India radar mission

Managers’ decision to focus their satellite on the Antarctic has upset some researchers who study ice around the northern pole.

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Earth scientists in the United States have waited decades for NASA to launch a radar satellite to study natural hazards and changing ecosystems. But the design of a joint US–India radar mission planned for 2022 has divided researchers who study polar ice.

Mission managers at NASA and the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) decided recently that the spacecraft, known as NISAR, will focus on the Antarctic at the Arctic’s expense. That will essentially blind the mission to everything that lies above 77.5º N latitude, including most of the Arctic’s rapidly shrinking sea ice — a decision that some researchers see as short-sighted. Several US polar scientists contacted by Nature declined to speak publicly about their concerns, worried about how NASA might react.

By: Alexandra Witze/Nature News

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