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#67 4/11/07   

HU, NASA Launches AIM Satellite

Hampton, VA - NASA's Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere (AIM) mission led by Hampton University is scheduled to launch on Wed., April 25 at 4:35 p.m. EDT from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. via a Pegasus XL launch vehicle. Hampton University is the first Historically Black College and University to have total mission responsibility for a NASA satellite mission.  
"Hampton University is leading the way in innovative research and our faculty's outstanding leadership and excellence is being recognized not just within the scientific community, but all over the world," said HU President Dr. William R. Harvey.
AIM will determine why polar mesospheric clouds (PMCs) form and why they vary. Polar mesospheric clouds are also called "noctilucent," or night shining, clouds. This is NASA's first mission dedicated to exploration of these unique and mysterious clouds, said Dr. James M. Russell, III, AIM's principal investigator. Russell is professor and co-director of Hampton University's Center for Atmospheric Sciences.
"The occurrence of these clouds at the edge of space and what causes them to vary is not understood," said Russell. "AIM will provide the comprehensive data needed to confirm current theories for cloud formation or develop new ones and allow researchers to build computer simulations that reproduce the observed changes in these clouds."
PMCs, which form in the polar regions, are being seen at lower latitudes than ever before, and have recently grown brighter and more frequent, suggesting a connection to global change. They are normally observed at altitudes of 50 miles above the Earth's surface on the edge of space in the coldest place in our atmosphere.
By measuring PMCs and the thermal, chemical and dynamical environment in which they form, the connection between these clouds and the meteorology of the polar mesosphere will be better understood. In the end, this will provide the basis for study of long-term variability in the mesospheric climate and its relationship to global change.
Under Russell's direction, Hampton University is responsible for the entire mission including hardware, software, flight operations, science team leadership, science data collection, reporting, data archival for use by the scientific community, and education and public outreach. Assisting Russell is an international science team and HU faculty, staff and students.
During the launch and while AIM is in orbit, members of the media are invited to view AIM's operation from the Project Data Center on HU's campus where real time count down and video coverage of the launch will be received.

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eoPortal: Sharing Earth Observation Resources
AIM Listing

Strange Clouds
Astronauts onboard the International Space Station have been observing electric blue "noctilucent" clouds from Earth-orbit.

A view of noctilucent clouds from the International Space Station.

NASA's Sun-Earth Education Forum Logo

The AIM mission is a part of
NASA's Sun-Earth Connection Education Forum.

Responsible Official: James M. Russell III

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