NASA to send aircraft on mission around the world to study pollution

PALMDALE, Calif (KABC) -- NASA plans to send a DC-8 aircraft around the world to collect data on the amount of pollutants in Earth's atmosphere.

The aircraft's interior is filled with wiring and computers, and the exterior has multiple sensors protruding from the body.

"A lot of flying time for this particular mission, 80 to 100 flying hours," NASA research pilot Wayne Ringelberg said.

He said the plan is to collect specific data about the atmosphere from Southern California, Alaska, New Zealand, Portugal, Samoa and beyond.

"They want to get a slice of the atmosphere so we'll be up high at normal 30, low 30s, 32,000 to maybe 35,000 feet, and then we'll descend down all the way to 500 feet above the water," Ringelberg said.

Scientists said that they're more worried about industrial pollution from Southeast Asia, the U.S. and from biomass burning in South America.

With this mission, scientists said that they will be able to look at the global environment in detail - sampling for some 200 gases as well as airborne particles.

"We expect to find out how much of the human fingerprint of pollution has reached the distant parts, and not just how much has reached there but whether or not those parcels are doing something chemically that we don't want them to do. Are they making more ozone? Are they destroying methane or not destroying methane? We'd like them to destroy more methane," scientist Michael Prather said.

NASA plans to send the aircraft in the air as early as next week, and scientists are planning to have core findings within a year or so.
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