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NASA is establishing a new science field campaign in 2009 to study sea ice roughness and break-up in the Arctic and high northern latitudes. This mission, known as CASIE-09 (Characterization of Arctic Sea Ice Experiment 2009), is being conducted under the auspices of the International Polar Year (IPY), a major international scientific research effort. The principal investigator, Dr. James Maslanik (University of Colorado, Boulder) was awarded a competitively selected grant by the NASA Science Mission Directorate, under the 2006 Research Opportunities in Space and Earth Sciences (ROSES)

This mission will combine the use of a variety of remote sensing methods, including satellite observations and uninhabited aerial vehicles, to provide fundamental new insights into ice roughness on the scale of meters to tens of meters in the context of larger-scale environmental forcing. In addition, the mission offers a technological and operational testbed to demonstrate the value of autonomous vehicles for long-range, long-duration remote sensing science. In keeping with this, the mission has three science goals:

  1. Determine the degree to which ice-roughness monitoring via remote sensing can detect basic changes in ice conditions such as ice thickness and ice age.
  2. Investigate relationships between ice roughness and factors affecting the loss or maintenance of the perennial ice cover.
  3. Determine how roughness varies as a function of different kinematic conditions and ice properties.

NASA plans to deploy a remotely-piloted research aircraft, called SIERRA (Sensor Integrated Environmental Remote Research Aircraft), along with a ground control station, a science team, and an operation & logistics team to collect science data in and around the Svalbard archipelago of Norway during the June-July 2009 timeframe.

This mission is sponsored by the Earth Science Division R&A Program at NASA Headquarters, under the direction of the Airborne Science Program. Dr. James Maslanik of the University of Colorado is the Principal Scientist.