PRESS RELEASE ARCHIVES
CONTACT: Nina Stickles
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
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.