Starting this year, NASA will be able to determine already the soil moisture of the entire planet. It won’t be done using a giant finger sticking into to the soil, though. The space agency will use something more sophisticated than that. They have created an equipment called the Soil Moisture Active Passive, or SMAP, satellite. The launching date will be on January 29, 2015, at 6:20 am Pacific Time from California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base.
Farmers won’t have to turn to other methods to determine the moisture of soil. The eye in the sky will do it for them. No more riding on a horse or tractor to survey the entire farm. NASA’s computers will supply them the data right there in their living rooms.
In a NASA press release the SMAP instrument manager Wendy Edelstein stated, “We call it the spinning lasso”.
Looking at the picture, you will notice an oversize disc antenna on top of it. That will definitely be the biggest space antenna you’re going to find for a long time to come. “We call it the spinning lasso”, according SMAP instrument manager Wendy Edelstein in a press release. The size of the antenna is something. It is so big, 6 meters in diameter to be exact. It posed a lot of challenges to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab engineers to launch it into space. In the end, they came up with a 1 foot by 4 feet for launch.
Edelstein stated, “The antenna caused us a lot of angst”.
There’s going to be no more guessing concerning the soil moisture from now on. The satellite will provide data every two days using the SMAP microwave instruments of up to two inches deep of the planet’s soil conditions. The data will be used as the basis for scientists and farmers to acquire the most accurate determination of soil moisture. The same data will also serve as an early warning device for incoming droughts.
Knowing that droughts are coming will provide farmers advanced warning to make adjustments in terms of when to plant their crops and what measures they can adopt to change their irrigation methods to counter the dry spell.
The SMAP will be effective at supplying a scientific assessment of the farm soil moisture. Farmers can base their plans by using the data supplied by the satellite.
Narendra Das, a scientist from Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California and a team member of SMAP’s science team said, “SMAP can assist in predicting how dramatic drought will be, and then its data can help farmers plan their recovery from drought”.