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NZ joins NASA's climate change initiative

Sarah Putt, Contributor. 25 February 2020, 2:47 pm

Air New Zealand is about to become the first passenger airline in the world to partner with NASA on an earth science mission. The initiative, aimed at monitoring the impact of climate change, will also involve researchers from the University of Auckland and University of Canterbury in data analysis.

NASA's next generation Global Navigation Satellite System Reflectometry (GNSS-R) receivers will be installed on Air New Zealand Q300 aircraft, collecting and processing environmental data as they fly across the country. While the University of Auckland, with $1.5 million in funding from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, will establish a Science Payload Operations Centre to process and analyse the data for research purposes. Researchers at both Auckland and Canterbury University will be involved in data analysis.

The collaboration is part of a science partnership agreement where New Zealand researchers and engineers will join NASA's Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS) mission. The agreement was signed between the MBIE and NASA in Washington DC last year.

"One of MBIE's core roles is to build research, science and innovation capability in New Zealand, and as a result of this partnership both Air New Zealand engineers and researchers across New Zealand will now have the opportunity to work with NASA and the University of Michigan on a world-leading earth science mission," says MBIE's General Manager of Science, Innovation and International Dr Peter Crabtree

Dr Gail Skofronick-Jackson, NASA's CYGNSS Program Scientist in the agency's Earth Science Division, says working with New Zealand will broaden the scope of its mission to monitor the wider impacts of climate change on the environment.

"NASA will use the data that is collected and processed in New Zealand for scientific research into global water cycle processes and their interactions with climate including effects like flooding, droughts and coastal erosion - all of which are long-term impacts of climate change."

Air New Zealand Chief Operational Integrity & Standards Officer Captain David Morgan says the airline is incredibly proud to be the first passenger airline in the world to partner with NASA on an earth science mission - and its regional Q300 is the perfect aircraft for the mission.

"Our Q300s fly the length and breadth of New Zealand, cruising at a much lower altitude than NASA's satellites. Placing NASA's receivers on our aircraft will significantly improve data quality, providing a daily stream of high-impact environmental and climate science information with huge potential for the global science community."

The receivers will be designed by the University of Michigan for NASA, working alongside Air New Zealand engineers, and installed in late 2020.

The Science Payload Operation Centre will be housed at the University of Auckland and will be developed by a joint team of researchers from the University of Auckland and the University of Canterbury. Project Lead Professor Delwyn Moller said the Centre will be up and running in late 2020 and will begin receiving the data immediately. New Zealand researchers will work with NASA and the University of Michigan to process the data.

"Over time, this data that will be collected by these receivers could form one of New Zealand's largest bodies of long-term environmental data and as such it represents a wide range of research opportunities," said Professor Moller says.

You can find out more about Air New Zealand's involvement here.



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