Meet the University at Buffalo professor who played a big part in NASA's newest satellite

Posted at 6:43 PM, Sep 06, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-06 18:43:58-04

On September 15, NASA will launch its brand new ice-monitoring satellite in California. Standing by to see the technological marvel take to the sky will be two professors from the University at Buffalo who understand, better than most, just how much work went into ICESat-2.

"The big part of the excitement will come when the satellite is working and we will begin to get the data and begin to get the knowledge out of it," UB's Chair of the Department of Geology Bea Csatho said.

For the past ten years, Csatho has been closely involved in the development of scientific research objectives for ICESat-2. She even spent three years in charge of the project's science definition team.

Hundreds of scientists and engineers collaborated on the mission, which will take off from Vandenberg Air Force Base.

"It's not so that NASA is designing a satellite and it begins to work and people begin to scratch their heads what to do with it," Csatho explained. "It's a very, very close collaboration between scientists, technicians and engineers from the very beginning of the design."

Joining her at the launch will be UB research professor of Geology Tony Schenk. His work will be instrumental in helping turn a monumental amount of data into statistics and information that scientists can make sense of.

"The big excitement is that it's a new technology," he said. "It is the first time that such a system was launched into space."

ICESat-2 will use laser pulses to precisely measure Earth's elevation. Those measurements will help scientists like Csatho and Schenk better understand the changing thickness of ice sheets and glaciers due to climate change.

Other UB researchers will also benefit from data gathered by the new satellite. Abani Patra, PhD, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and Prashant Shekhar, a PhD candidate in the Computational and Data-Enabled Science and Engineering program, are among those planning to use the data.

To learn more about ICESat-2, click here.

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