News Article

GEDI Laser Resumes Climate Change Mission in Space

The Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation (GEDI) laser, a crucial tool in the fight against Climate change, is set to resume its mission aboard the International Space Station (ISS). This advanced laser system creates detailed three-dimensional maps of Earth’s forests, providing essential data on carbon storage and potential emissions from deforestation. Developed by the University of Maryland and NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, the $94 million GEDI laser was first launched in 2018. Its mission was nearly cut short to accommodate a Department of Defense project, but intervention by Maryland’s Congressional delegation ensured its preservation. Senators Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin, along with Congressman Steny Hoyer, played pivotal roles in negotiating with NASA to secure the laser’s continued operation.

“This is an essential instrument for better understanding how we can protect the world’s forests and the consequences of deforestation,” Senator Van Hollen emphasized. The laser’s data is vital for current and future generations, providing valuable insights into forest health and carbon dynamics.

GEDI orbits Earth every 90 minutes, using its sensors to map the height and structure of trees. This information, combined with ground data, enables the creation of comprehensive carbon databases. According to University of Maryland researcher Ralph Dubayah, these databases are used by governments and nonprofits to plan and predict climate-related changes.

“GEDI is giving us a better understanding of how we can plan and predict for the changes that are coming because of climate,” Dubayah noted. Losing GEDI would hinder the ability to accurately estimate atmospheric CO2 concentrations, a critical factor in climate modeling.

NASA has announced that GEDI will resume its forest mapping activities this summer, continuing its vital contribution to understanding and mitigating the impacts of climate change. This resumption ensures that the invaluable data collected by GEDI will keep informing efforts to preserve our planet’s forests and manage carbon emissions effectively.