NASA is headed to Earth’s Outermost Edge

NASA is going for the GOLD. Its GOLD mission — short for Global-Scale Observations of the Limb and Disk mission, is slated for launch January 25, the company announced on 4th January. Gold will study the zone in which earth’s atmosphere meets outer space.


Its mission is to better understand how both solar and terrestrial storms have an effect on the ionosphere, an upper atmosphere region critical for the radio communications.


Earth’s ionosphere, where incoming cosmic and sun rays have interaction with the atmosphere to create charged particles, extends from approximately 75 to about 1200 kilometres above the planet’s surface. From its geostationary orbit 35,000 kilometres high, GOLD will observe the ionosphere’s density and temperature by using an instrument referred to as an ultraviolet imaging spectrograph.


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Previous satellites have provided snapshots of the ionosphere, but that is the first time an instrument will keep track of changes in the layers through time, gathering data every 30 minutes.


GOLD is the first NASA mission to be launched aboard a commercial communications satellite. NASA plans to launch a complementary mission, the Ionospheric Connection Explorer, later this year. That mission will travel directly through the ionosphere, studying its make-up, density and temperature.

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