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Satellites in Decline

  • Posted 04.11.13
  • NOVA

We know more about the Earth now than ever before, but that knowledge is in jeopardy as many Earth-observing satellites are nearing the end of their lives.

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Launch Video Running Time: 01:51

Transcript

Earth from Space

PBS Airdate: February 13, 2013

NARRATOR: All around the globe, satellites are recording change, but there is a problem. Just as we are able to capture and measure these changes, many of the current fleet of satellites are coming to the end of their lives. Satellites need fuel in order to maintain their orbits. When their time is up, they must either use the last of their fuel to boost them far away from the earth or descend and burn up on re-entry. It's predicted that the number of NASA's earth-observing satellites will go from 20 spacecraft down to just eight, within the next decade.

The constant stream of data from these vital instruments in space will fade. Soon we may lose our ability to track the web of connections that is fundamental to life.

DAVID ADAMEC: The complex interactions would be absolutely invisible to us, without a larger view of the earth. It's the consistency and the amount of data that they provide that allows us to understand the processes that are going on in the earth that are important to maintaining life as we know it.

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A Canada / United Kingdom Co-Production

Produced by Darlow Smithson Productions Ltd, Shock of Mighty Productions and Handel Productions (EFS) Inc.

In association with NOVA/WGBH Educational Foundation and Discovery Channel Canada

Produced with the participation of CMF FMC with the assistance of Québec Film and Television Tax Credit Gestion Sodec and The Canadian Film or Video Production Tax Credit.

© 2013 Darlow Smithson Productions Ltd, Shocks of Mighty Productions Ltd & Handel Productions Inc.
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Additional Material © 2013 WGBH Educational Foundation
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Image

(satellite)
© WGBH Educational Foundation

Participants

David Adamec
NASA Scientist

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