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Satellite to measure methane emissions – Expert Reaction

Mission control for an international space mission to locate and measure global methane emissions will be based in New Zealand.

The Government is investing $26 million in a project run by the Environmental Defense Fund to locate and measure methane from human sources worldwide, Dr Megan Woods, Minister for Research, Science and Innovation, announced today.

While the Fund’s initial priority is to collect emissions data from the oil and gas industry, the Government will investigate the possibility of New Zealand using the data to lead an agricultural science component of the mission, Minister Woods said at the launch.

The state-of-the-art satellite - MethaneSAT - is scheduled to launch in 2022 and the location of the New Zealand-based mission control centre will be announced in coming months.

The SMC asked experts to comment on the announcement. ________________________________________
Professor Richard Easther, Professor of Physics (and Head of Department), University of Auckland, comments:
"This is an enormously exciting announcement.

"Methane is a critical greenhouse gas and fully understanding its origins and atmospheric dynamics will be key to addressing climate change.

"Maybe just as importantly, this mission is also what will hopefully be the first of a number of contributions New Zealand can make to major international space science projects, as a consequence of New Zealand’s growing space capability.

"Beyond the specific outcomes from the mission, engaging in this project will undoubtedly build New Zealand’s capacity to contribute, develop and lead space missions. This is a significant step towards building a space programme that will contribute to New Zealand’s economic and scientific future."

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No conflict of interest.
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Dr Duncan Steel, Principal Research Scientist, Xerra Earth Observation Institute, comments:

"Whilst people imagine that space is all about satellites and rockets, in fact, the trillion-dollar space industry largely involves activities on the ground. Having satellite mission control in New Zealand is an obvious example of that. This will also be inspirational for younger people as it shows them you don't have to move elsewhere to be directly involved in space research.

"A special thing about New Zealand, which is often overlooked, is our longitude as well as our southern latitude. Satellites passing over Europe travel over New Zealand ground stations 45 or 50 minutes later - so data download to New Zealand makes sense! Plus there is nothing east of us until Chile. We could and should be a cross-roads for dumping down satellite data."
No conflict of interest.

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