NASA Aircraft to Fly Over Manitoba in Month-Long Experiment

NASA will begin flying two piloted aircraft over southern Manitoba today as part of an experiment to test methods for monitoring soil moisture from satellites.

From June 7 to July 17, the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) aircraft will make the rounds several times a week over mixed agricultural and forested land from Portage la Prairie to Carman in south-central Manitoba. The purpose will be to collect data on surface soil moisture and temperature that will be used to produce maps of global soil moisture, temperature and freeze/thaw states on a regular basis.

“Manitoba was chosen for this project for many reasons. Of paramount importance is the extreme variability in soil moisture that typifies the Red River Watershed — from drought to flood conditions,” said Paul Bullock of the Faculty of Agricultural and Food Science at the University of Manitoba. “The Manitoba site also has a range of crop types (both annual and perennial), land cover (farmland, wetland and forest land) and soil texture. As well, the new research effort will build on other well-established projects looking into soil moisture and existing collaborations with area farmers.”

The aircraft departed at 7:30 a.m. and will carry instruments similar to those onboard a satellite that NASA will launch in 2014.