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Earth's soil moisture to be sniffed by DIRTY-MINDED satellite

NASA launches bird INTO SPAAACE

NASA has successfully launched a satellite that will collect global observations of Earth's soil moisture.

The U.S. space agency's bird – dubbed the Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) satellite – was blasted into space on the unmanned United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket.

During SMAP's three-year mission, the sat's expected to observe the soil moisture hidden just beneath our feet, NASA said after lift off.

The telemetry of the spacecraft – which is expected to orbit Earth from pole to pole every 98.5 minutes – was understood to be in good health.

NASA hopes that SMAP's work will help boffins develop a better understanding of the water, energy and carbon cycles of Earth's system. It said:

SMAP's combined radar and radiometer instruments will peer into the top 2 inches (5 centimeters) of soil, through clouds and moderate vegetation cover, day and night, to produce the highest-resolution, most accurate soil moisture maps ever obtained from space.

"Soil moisture data from SMAP has the potential to significantly improve the accuracy of short-term weather forecasts and reduce the uncertainty of long-term projections of how climate change will impact Earth's water cycle," added SMAP project scientist Simon Yueh. ®

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