The mission has been approved with the intention of helping the agency understand the space weather around Earth, and create forecasts
The space, despite largely being a vacuum, experiences varying weather, owing to the presence of various gases and occurrence of cosmic activities. The weather in space, especially around earth, can impact numerous parameters. It can cause interference in the technology employed in space, hindrances to astronauts, and disrupt radio communications, power grids, and other networks. To study the weather patterns in space, and possibly develop a weather forecast system, NASA has sanctioned a US$ 42 million mission.
Named the Atmospheric Waves Experiment (AWE), the objective of the mission is to study factors which influence the weather in space. A unit will be attached the International Space Station (ISS), which will study the airglow emitted from the earth’s atmosphere, to gain a thorough understanding of what forces affect the change in weather in the upper atmosphere. Earlier, researchers were of the opinion that only the constant flux of ultraviolet rays and particles from the sun is the only factor which causes weather changes in the atmosphere. However, the variations they saw in weather conditions, led them to believe that the weather changes cannot be dependent on a single source.
The mission is being launched under NASA’s Heliophysics Explorers Programs initiative, which set off in 1958 with NASA’s first satellite, Explorer 1. The AWE program is expected to serve multiple functions and at the same time, is also focused on unravelling the workings of the universe. ” The Explorers Program seeks innovative ideas for small and cost-constrained missions that can help unravel the mysteries of the universe and explore our place in it. This mission absolutely meets that standard with a creative and cost-effective mission to solve mysteries about Earth’s upper atmosphere,” said Paul Hertz, NASA’s Director of Astrophysics