NASA Scientists Trek the South Pole
With extreme cold-weather gear, scientific instruments, and two tank-like snow machines called PistenBullys, they begin a traverse on Dec. 21 along section of the 88-degree south latitude line in an arc around the South Pole, documenting a new route across the Antarctic ice.
The 470-mile expedition in one of the most barren landscapes on Earth will ultimately provide the best assessment of the accuracy of data collected from space by the Ice Cloud and land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2), set to launch in 2018. With a fast-firing laser instrument, ICESat-2 will measure the elevation of ice sheets and track how much they change over time. Even small amounts of melt across areas as vast as Greenland or Antarctica can result in large amounts of meltwater contributing to sea level rise.
To help document this, ICESat-2's height change measurements will have a precision of less than an inch – ground-truthed, in part, with efforts like this Antarctic campaign. The team will collect precise GPS data of the elevation at 88 degrees south, where ICESat-2’s orbits converge, providing thousands of points where the survey measurements can be compared to satellite data.
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NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center