PACE — short for the Plankton, Aerosols, Cloud, ocean Ecosystem mission — will build on previous ocean-color studies. By studying Earth's oceans, clouds and aerosols (small particles in the air), PACE can measure the diversity of the ocean's tiny plant-like organisms called phytoplankton and help scientists better understand how climate change is affecting the environment.
"NASA's PACE mission will track ocean health, which is good for everyone's health," said the narrator of the "PACE — Skies, Oceans, Life" video published by the space agency on June 15.
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland is helming the development of this Earth-observing mission, according to agency officials.
PACE's primary tool, the Ocean Color Instrument (OCI), will be able to measure the color of the ocean in a broad range of wavelengths, from ultraviolet to shortwave infrared, according to NASA. PACE entered its preliminary design stage in July 2017 and is expected to be ready for launch in 2022.
"The color of the ocean is determined by the interaction of sunlight with substances or particles present in seawater, such as chlorophyll, a green pigment found in most phytoplankton species," NASA officials state on the PACE website. "By monitoring global phytoplankton distribution and abundance with unprecedented detail, the OCI will help us to better understand the complex systems that drive ocean ecology."