NASA’s lidar satellite mission, known as CALIPSO, has come to an end after 17 years of operations. CALIPSO, a joint mission between NASA and the French National Centre for Space Studies (CNES), ran out of fuel and could no longer generate enough power to operate its science instruments. The mission used an active lidar instrument combined with passive infrared and visible imagers to study the vertical structure and properties of thin clouds and aerosols in Earth’s atmosphere. CALIPSO, launched in 2006, provided scientists with unique simultaneous observations and never-before-seen 3D perspectives of cloud and aerosol formation.
CALIPSO was part of a coordinated effort with the CloudSat satellite, which used radio waves to study clouds. The two satellites provided scientists with valuable data by probing the vertical structure of the atmosphere and measuring the altitude of clouds and layers of airborne particles. The mission’s observations were particularly important in detecting volcanic ash plumes and alerting commercial aviators to avoid flying into them. CALIPSO’s successful operation over a long period of time is seen as an accomplishment by the scientists involved in its conception 25 years ago.
In conclusion, NASA’s CALIPSO lidar satellite mission has concluded after 17 years due to fuel exhaustion and a decaying orbit. CALIPSO, alongside the CloudSat satellite, provided valuable insights into the vertical structure of Earth’s atmosphere, studying cloud formations and aerosols. The mission’s data contributed to the detection of volcanic ash plumes and aided in directing commercial aviators to avoid dangerous airspace. The success and longevity of CALIPSO’s operations are regarded as a significant achievement by the scientists involved.