In DepthEarth Science

Space station finds a calling

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Science  03 May 2019:
Vol. 364, Issue 6439, pp. 421
DOI: 10.1126/science.364.6439.421

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The International Space Station (ISS) has never been known as a hotbed of science, even though the United States and partner nations spent more than $100 billion to build it. But 2 decades after it started to take shape, the ISS has finally found a scientific calling by looking down at its home planet. The station is now home to five instruments that observe Earth, with two more set to join this year. One, NASA's Orbiting Carbon Observatory 3 (OCO-3), was scheduled for launch this week. The ISS is not an ideal platform for such instruments, but its affordability has helped maintain NASA's diversity of Earth observations after several spectacular launch failures a decade ago. OCO-3 will complement the existing OCO-2 satellite, while its flexible pointing system will allow for the creation of city-scale maps of carbon emissions. These maps could pave the way toward verifying carbon cuts from space.