How TIMED flies: NASA mission celebrates twentieth anniversary


Artist’s impression of the TIMED spacecraft in orbit, scanning Earth. Credit: Johns Hopkins APL/Steve Gribben

Launched in 2001, NASA’s TIMED mission has now spent 20 years surveying the difficult dynamics of Earth’s higher ambiance. Short for Thermosphere, Ionosphere, Mesosphere Energetics and Dynamics, TIMED observes the chemistry and dynamics the place Earth’s ambiance meets space. On its twentieth anniversary, the scientific neighborhood is reflecting on what they’ve discovered from TIMED’s 20 years of operations.

Influence throughout the fleet

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TIMED’s contributions during the last 20 years have influenced missions throughout NASA, particularly within the discipline of heliophysics, the science of the Sun-Earth system.

“TIMED plays an important role in our heliophysics fleet,” stated Nicola Fox, director of the Heliophysics Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “The upper atmosphere is a critical part of our Sun-Earth system and TIMED’s long-term data set has been an important part of deepening our understanding of this dynamic. It has also paved the way for our newer missions studying this region.”

Heather Futrell, program government of TIMED, additionally identified how TIMED’s contributions will have an effect on NASA’s heliophysics missions for years to return. “As the sixth oldest NASA heliophysics mission, TIMED’s findings and performance over the past 20 years have helped shape our approach to missions that have launched since then and will launch in the coming years,” she stated. “Existing missions, such as ICON and GOLD, and upcoming missions, such as AWE and GDC, build on the foundation of upper atmospheric science results that TIMED provided.”

Two many years of science

TIMED’s 20 years of knowledge have given scientists an unprecedented perspective on adjustments within the higher atmosphere. TIMED research the essential area that spans altitudes of about 40 to 110 miles (about 65 to 180 kilometers) above Earth’s floor. The lengthy lifespan of the mission has allowed scientists to trace the higher ambiance’s response to each quick-changing circumstances—like particular person solar storms—all through the Sun’s 11-year exercise cycle, in addition to longer developments, just like the cooling and contracting of the higher ambiance as a consequence of local weather change.

“TIMED is a testament to the type of work we do here at NASA,” stated Peg Luce, deputy director of the Heliophysics Division at NASA Headquarters. “Twenty years is a long time and many of the people who have worked on this mission have moved on and some have retired. To all the folks that have worked on TIMED—in any capacity—thank you for your hard work and dedication. Your legacy includes an important mission that has deepened our understanding of the upper atmosphere-Sun-Earth interaction and helped shape the field of heliophysics.”

Samuel Yee, principal investigator for TIMED, additionally applauded the long-term affect this mission has had. “In 2011, 10 years after TIMED launched, I predicted that TIMED’s findings would provide insight for years to come,” stated Yee, who is predicated at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland. “Now, 20 years after launching, TIMED has changed our understanding of the upper atmosphere and how it responds to our Sun and conditions on Earth, influencing heliophysics and Earth science research forever.”

“There’s no doubt that TIMED observations have improved our understanding of many complex physical processes at work in Earth’s upper atmosphere,” stated John McCormack, TIMED program scientist at NASA Headquarters. “TIMED continues to make important contributions to understanding how changes in the upper atmosphere—over time scales from days to decades—are connected to what’s happening in the lower atmosphere.”

Impact on Earth

TIMED has additionally performed a task in lots of scientific careers, inspiring Ph.D. college students who would go on to steer their very own missions and devices on higher atmospheric science.

“Looking back, working on TIMED was a magical time for me,” stated Marty Mlynczak, principal investigator for TIMED’s Sounding of the Atmosphere utilizing Broadband Emission Radiometry (SABER) instrument, constructed and operated on the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory. “I was in a lead role on a NASA flight mission a few years after finishing my doctorate. My Ph.D. and post-graduate research were going into orbit! I was working with the eminent scientists in the field at the time. Everyone working on TIMED had one objective: success of the mission.”

“The launch of the TIMED satellite in 2001 with SABER onboard changed my scientific life and added a new science dimension that will never go away,” stated James Russell III, SABER PI emeritus and endowed professor and co-director of the Center for Atmospheric Sciences at Hampton University in Virginia. “This ‘new world,” actually on the sting of space, introduced with it thrilling alternatives for advancing atmospheric science. It has been exceptionally rewarding to work with the TIMED crew to unfold among the recognized mysteries of the mesosphere and decrease thermosphere and uncover others that we didn’t know existed.”

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How TIMED flies: NASA mission celebrates twentieth anniversary (2021, December 9)
retrieved 9 December 2021

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