If you need to know if the plants in your house need watering, all you have to do is stick your finger into the soil. The same goes for your lawn. However, if you want to check the soil moisture in Dubai, that might be a bit trickier. But not for long. Thanks to a new satellite developed by NASA, and set to launch into Earth’s orbit at the end of the month, soon you will be able to check on the moisture content of the whole planet with the click of a mouse.
The Soil Moisture Active Passive satellite, or SMAP, is scheduled for launch at 9:20 am ET on January 29 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. And aside from being the first soil moisture analyzer NASA has ever launched into space, the satellite has the largest rotating mesh antenna ever deployed, with a diameter of six meters.
“We call it the spinning lasso,” said Wendy Edelstein, the SMAP instrument manager said in a NASA press release.
Because of its size, the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab’s engineers had to build it in a way so that it could be compressed into a 30 x 120 centimeter space for the launch.