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Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Satellite will 'chase' tropical storms

Daniel Alvarado Varela is a 31-year-old with no children of his own, but he does have a "baby" of sorts. One weighing nearly four tonnes.

GPM artist's impression
Mr Alvarado, a Puerto Rican mechanical engineer who has worked on the probe's structure, has watched this baby develop since 2005, and was recently chosen to travel with it on what he calls the child's "graduation": a journey from the US State of Maryland, where the satellite was built, to the Japanese island of Tanegashima.
It is from here that the satellite will be launched in February on a Japanese rocket.
Days before setting off on that continental journey, the BBC visited Alvarado in his "playground": Nasa's clean-room at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
It was there that he helped build the satellite, in a process he compared to "playing in my childhood with Lego blocks and GI Joes and imagining that different things happen".
"It's great fun," says Mr Alvarado, who likes to prepare mojitos at a bar in his spare time. "This gives a sense of reality to all that imagination I had when I was a kid".
An eye on the Earth
The satellite is a highly complex structure the size of a small private jet and is capable of "seeing" what happens inside clouds.
Developed by Nasa and the Japanese Space Agency (Jaxa), the core GPM observatory will carry two instruments that will help scientists to study the internal structure of storms, in order to understand how they change over time and why their intensity alters as they move from the tropics to other latitudes.
One of the instruments, a microwave radiometer, will be capable of measuring the size or the intensity of rain and snowfall.

Daniel Alvarado
Daniel Alvarado says the mission has helped him realise his childhood dreams

From BBC News

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