We can see that Earth's ecosystems are changing; yet, we are often blind to the reasons and consequences.
The Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, ocean Ecosystem (PACE) mission will deliver the most comprehensive global combined ocean-atmosphere measurements in NASA's history. Not only will PACE monitor the health of our ocean and its living marine resources, it will give us extensive measurements of aerosols (tiny airborne particles) and clouds. The PACE mission will ultimately unveil a variety of new products to aid our understanding of the atmosphere and ocean and their roles in Earth's changing climate.
PACE is being implemented by the Goddard Space Flight Center who will design and build the Ocean Color Instrument (OCI), as well as maintain responsibility for project management, safety and mission assurance, mission operations and ground systems, launch vehicle / spacecraft / instrument payload integration and testing, OCI calibration, validation, and science data processing.
PACE provides a strategic climate continuity mission in support of NASA's Plan for a Climate-Centric Architecture for Earth Observations and Applications from Space (2010). Its instruments will measure aerosol particles, clouds, and many factors related to marine ecosystems including phytoplankton community composition.
PACE will be used to monitor the diversity and distribution of many types of phytoplankton - microscopic organisms that form the base of the marine food web. Of particular interest are how and why these distributions are changing and the downstream impact on fisheries and sustainable habitat management.
PACE will also provide extended data records on clouds and aerosol particles, one of the most uncertain components in our understanding of physical climate, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2007). Improved characterization of aerosol particles in particular will enable quantifying their impact on ocean biology and chemistry as well as Earth's energy budget.
In combination with other observing systems and models, PACE will foster an improved understanding of how marine ecosystems impact nutrient and carbon cycling in the ocean-land-atmosphere Earth system. Benefits to society from this new information include the ability to detect water quality and pollution sources, harmful algal blooms and oxygen minimum zones. Ultimately, the combination of high-quality, global atmospheric and oceanic observations provided by the PACE mission will foster new discoveries about life on Earth.