NASA’s Global Warming Observatory Is Lost in Space

By Susan Jones | February 24, 2009 | 8:19 AM EST

NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory lifts off from Vandenberg Air Force Base on Tuesday, Feb. 24. It failed to reach orbit. (Photo courtesy NASA TV)

( – An orbiting “global warming” observatory launched into space Tuesday morning failed to reach its intended orbit, NASA announced.
Several minutes after the Taurus rocket carrying the observatory blasted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, launch managers found that the payload failed to separate.

The orbiting carbon dioxide observatory is lost and probably landed in the Pacific Ocean near Antarctica, said John Brunschwyler, the program manager for the Taurus XL.

A Mishap Investigation Board is to determine the cause of the launch failure.

This was intended to be the first spacecraft dedicated to studying atmospheric carbon dioxide – “the principal human-produced driver of climate change,” NASA says on its Web site.
According to NASA, the observatory was supposed to provide the “the first complete picture of human and natural carbon dioxide sources as well as their ‘sinks,’ the places where carbon dioxide is pulled out of the atmosphere and stored.”  
Combined with data from ground stations and other sources, the observatory would have helped answer questions about atmospheric carbon dioxide and its role in Earth's climate and carbon cycle.
The $280-million mission was supposed to help scientists predict future carbon dioxide increases – “and make more accurate climate change predictions,” NASA said. “Policymakers and business leaders can use the data to make more informed decisions that improve the quality of life on Earth.”
NASA contends that human activities, particularly fossil fuel burning and deforestation, have upset Earth's carbon cycle balance.
“It's critical that we understand the processes controlling carbon dioxide in our atmosphere today so we can predict how fast it will build up in the future and how quickly we'll have to adapt to climate change caused by carbon dioxide buildup," said David Crisp, who worked on the Orbiting Carbon Observatory at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.
He made the comment in a January news release discussing the upcoming launch.
Last month, Japan successfully launched the world's first satellite to monitor global warming emissions, the Associated Press reported.