A successful launch of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket from Florida carried NASA’s latest innovation, the Tropospheric Emissions Monitoring of Pollution (TEMPO) device. TEMPO will provide scientists with a comprehensive monitoring system for air pollutants and their sources of emission over North America. It will offer detailed information at the neighborhood level, measuring pollution and air quality on an hourly basis during daylight hours, from Puerto Rico to Canada’s tar sands. This data will be utilized by various agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, for addressing atmospheric pollution.
TEMPO is about the size of a washing machine and acts like a chemistry laboratory in space. It will be installed on an Intelsat communications satellite, located in geostationary orbit, which is a unique feature compared to existing pollution-monitoring satellites that are positioned in low Earth orbit, providing observations once daily at a fixed time.
TEMPO has a spatial resolution of 4 square miles, which corresponds to the neighborhood level, enabling the measurement of atmospheric pollution down to this level. The American Lung Association reports that more than 137 million people, or 40% of the US population, live in areas with unhealthy levels of particle pollution or ozone. Air pollution is also associated with around 60,000 premature deaths annually.
TEMPO will track several pollutants, including nitrogen dioxide, formaldehyde, and ozone, which are produced from the combustion of fossil fuels. This data will be publicly accessible online, allowing individuals to monitor air quality in their local area. The TEMPO device will begin producing data in October, with its public release scheduled for April of next year. The mission of TEMPO is more than merely studying pollution; it aims to enhance life on Earth by improving air quality across North America and safeguarding the planet.