People of PACE: Anita Arnoldt is a Team Player, on the Softball Field and in the Cleanroom

Anita Arnoldt is the electrical lead for PACE at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

A woman stands in the left portion of the image. She is seen from the shoulders up and is wearing a white clean room suit that covers her torso, arms, and goes over her head. She also has on blue latex gloves, a white mask over her nose and mouth, and magnifying glasses. To the right of the image is a  portion of the PACE spacecraft, which is covered in a gold-colored foil-like material. The woman is holding wiring from the spacecraft and is looking closely at it.
Arnoldt working on pin retention on PACE. Image credit: Dennis Henry

What do you do for PACE?

I’m an electrical technician. I did all the harness wiring, routing, and thermal work, all the electrical work. I worked with Amy Huong, and together we did the wiring for both OCI and for the PACE spacecraft. We plugged it all in and tested it!

What are you most looking forward to once data starts coming in?

I’m looking forward to making sure everything works. If everyone is happy with the data they collect from all the spacecraft instruments, and everything is working well, then I’ll be happy.

What is your favorite color and why?

Blue, because that’s the color of the ocean and the sky. I just like looking at blue.

A man and a woman stand centered in the image, smiling at the camera. The man is taller than the woman and is wearing a blue button-up short sleeved polo with a Hawaiian shirt pattern of NASA logos, satellites, and clouds printed on it. The woman is wearing a black shirt and dark blue jeans. Behind them, positioned behind a protective sheet of plastic is the PACE spacecraft, which is covered in a silver foil like material.
Arnoldt and her husband, Jim, in front of PACE for family day. Image credit: Dennis Henry

What’s a fun fact about yourself?

I used to play softball for the Air Force. My husband is retired Air Force, so we were stationed in Italy and so I got to play on the European women’s softball team. I played first base and shortstop. We actually won that year for the European championship!

What advice would you give to aspiring scientists or engineers or technicians who are looking to get where you are today?

Try to learn as much as you can from the people that are around you. Make sure you have a really good team like we did on PACE – I think we had an excellent team from the top down. Everybody contributed so much, we communicated well, and it was just really good working together. And we had a fun time.

What is one catch all statement that you would want the public to know about the importance of PACE?

It’s important to study the climate and climate change to make sure people can make the best decisions – and PACE and OCI are going to help with that.

Header image caption: Arnoldt working on PACE’s solar panels. Image credit: Dennis Henry

By Erica McNamee, Science Writer at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

People of PACE: Amir Ibrahim Understands the Atmosphere to Study the Ocean

Amir Ibrahim is the PACE (Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, ocean Ecosystem) project science lead for atmospheric correction at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

What is your favorite atmospheric or ocean related book or movie?

A man wearing khaki pants, a black sweatshirt, and sunglasses stands to the right of the image. He is leaning against a large piece of driftwood and standing on the beach. There are three other smaller pieces of driftwood scattered throughout the picture. Majority of the picture is taken up by the beach, but the top of the image shows the horizon, some clouds, and a blue-gray colored sky.
Following a conference in Canada, Ibrahim decided to take a break and venture into Vancouver Island, dedicating part of his time to exploring Tofino. Credit: Samantha Weltz

My favorite ocean movie is “The Perfect Storm.” I know it’s not a happy movie, but I think it’s a great movie that shows us how mighty the ocean is and how important it is to our lives. The impact of the storm on the ocean also shows us how important our understanding of the interactions between our atmosphere and our oceans are.

What do you do for PACE?

The PACE mission aims to accurately study the ocean and its constituents as observed from space. The Earth’s atmosphere has small particles called aerosols and air molecules that interfere with ocean observations. My role within the PACE mission is developing algorithms to separate that ocean signal from the atmosphere and correct for these atmospheric particles in order to have a more accurate view of the ocean and phytoplankton particles.

What was your favorite part of the launch?

I was fortunate to be able to see the launch at Kennedy Space Center. It was a very joyous moment. I was able to see many years of work come to fruition with the launch of the satellite.  I am excited to be able to get the data and attempt to answer all our science questions.

What are you most looking forward to when data starts coming in?

Over the past several years, we have been building a simulator to predict what PACE is expecting to see from space. We’ve spent a lot of time and effort building that simulator in order to run through our algorithms, conduct tests and get ready for the launch. Now what I’m really excited about is actually seeing if all of our algorithms are actually functioning and working on real PACE data. Simulating data is not as much fun as the real stuff.

What is your favorite color and why?

My favorite color is blue because it’s my son’s favorite color, too. Also, growing up by the seaside in the Mediterranean, I loved the blue color of the ocean and the sky above it, and I always wanted to understand why the ocean and sky are so blue. The blue sky comes from sunlight scattered by air molecules, creating a phenomenon called Rayleigh scattering. Interestingly, that later became part of my work activities, which involves understanding the light in the atmosphere in order to correct for the different colors of the ocean below it.

A man wearing a dark shirt and a headset with a microphone attached in front of his mouth sits in the cockpit of a small airplane. He is seen from the shoulders up. The image is being taken from behind him, so he is turned around, smiling at the camera. In front of him are the controls of the plane including six circular gauges. Out of the front window of the plane is a gray sky.
Ibrahim is taking flying lessons in a small Cessna. Image Credit: Samantha Weltz

What is a fun fact about yourself?

I have a big interest in flying and have taken some flying lessons. One day, I’d love to be a pilot. Maybe when the dust settles from PACE, I’ll be able to go back and take more lessons or fly with an instrument to study the ocean from an airplane!

 

What advice would you give to aspiring scientists looking to get where you are today?

A man stands at the top of a small orange step ladder, centered in the image. He wears jeans, a dark colored jacket, and a yellow hard hat. He is standing next to a structure that is about the same height as him and has a scientific instrument on top of it. In the background of the image is a body of water, which is blue and still. The sky is cloudy and is a light blue and gray color.
Ibrahim is in the process of setting up a hyperspectral radiometry system in Long Island Sound for the purpose of validating satellite data. Credit: Robert Foster

The three most important things to me that got me into this position are being passionate and persistent about what I do, networking, and continuously learning. Being dedicated is very important, and if you hit obstacles, you can always get around them with dedication. Connect with various scientists and other people in the field in order to have a network of people who can support you in your career. And finally, as a scientist, you should never stop learning. You have to be humble enough to know that there are things that you don’t know. So, read papers and publications, write, engage with the community, and go to conferences. Those are all really critical things that can help you with your career.

What is a catch-all statement that you would want the public to know about PACE?

PACE will revolutionize our understanding of the ocean and the atmosphere for two reasons; One, PACE will have the first hyperspectral instrument dedicated for ocean color, which is quite unique and has never been done before. And two, it will have multi-angle polarimeters that will improve our understanding of aerosols and the ocean beyond any other instrument that is currently in space. It’s an interdisciplinary mission.

Header image caption: Ibrahim posing with PACE in the integration and testing facility at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. Image Credit: Dennis Henry

By Erica McNamee, Science Writer at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

People of PACE: Bridget Seegers Sails the Seas… and Studies Them Too!

Bridget Seegers is an oceanographer at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland and a team member for NASA’s Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, ocean Ecosystem (PACE) mission.

A woman stands slightly to the right of center of the image. She is wearing a black T-shirt and has a hat on. She looks to the left of the image, out in the distance. She is standing on a boat and is holding the steering wheel in her left hand and rope in her right hand. Behind her is the ocean, part of a harbor, and a blue sky with some clouds.
Bridget captaining her sailboat, Blissfully. That’s the boat name and she is quite blissful while sailing. Image Credit: Azul Gutierrez

What is your favorite atmosphere or ocean related book or movie?

“Life Aquatic” definitely comes to mind. It’s amazingly accurate in how it depicts certain aspects of life on a research vessel. For a book, there’s one called “The Long Way” by Bernard Moitessier. It’s about him sailing solo in a race around the world, way back in the day (1968), which is very interesting.

What is your research about?

I focus on harmful algal blooms. There are a lot of little, teeny organisms called phytoplankton in the ocean and lakes, and sometimes they grow into huge numbers, and we call that a bloom. That can be good because it feeds the food web, but sometimes it can be toxic and cause problems. People monitor those harmful events to reduce human exposure to any of the harmful toxins. I use satellites to monitor for these harmful events and help water quality managers respond to them.

A woman with curly blonde hair stands in the image seen from the knees up wearing black pants and a navy blue T-shirt with the words "PACE Launch Team" written on it. She is holding her right hand up in a "thumbs up" motion. Behind her and in the right side of the image are tall structures of a launch pad. A rocket is attached to one of the tall structures, the PACE logo printed at the top of it. The sky behind the launch pad and the woman is a gray blue color, filled with clouds.
Bridget with PACE ready for launch on top of a Falcon 9 rocket. Image Credit: Bridget Seegers

What was your favorite part of watching the launch?

The PACE team, friends, and families being together sharing all the excitement, hugs, and emotions was my favorite part of launch. It was incredible watching the rocket light up the night as PACE began its journey to space! And, of course, fantastic to hear updates throughout launch and since that all is well with PACE and the instruments. All wonderful experiences!

What are you most looking forward to post-launch?

The data and exactly what we can do with it. There’s been a lot of talks and hopes of what this data will be like, but there’s never been a satellite like PACE. We can imagine all these products, but it’ll be great to see what we actually can do with the products. If we can tell one type of phytoplankton from another, we can hopefully tell some of the more harmful ones from ones that are just average members of the phytoplankton community that aren’t causing problems.

We know that OCI on PACE is going to be able to look at all the colors of the ocean, so what is your favorite color and why?

My favorite color is purple. Why? I don’t know, it just feels right.

Centered in the image is an aquatic creature - a Christmas tree worm. The magenta colored creature is in a spiral shape, spiraling upwards, where the diameter gets smaller as it rises - looking like the shape of a Christmas tree. Towards the center of the spiral, the color changes to a pale mint green.
Christmas Tree worms from a reef in Rangiora from when Bridget was sailing there. Image Credit: Rory Moore

Do you have a favorite type of phytoplankton or sea creature?

I think my favorite sea creature would be Christmas tree worms. They live on coral reefs and they like pop out and they look like an evergreen tree. They come in all these different colors. When you get close, they like pull themselves in, but then they pop back up. They’re really fun and colorful, and they’re kind of interactive. For phytoplankton, there are a variety of species that bioluminesce and I think that’s pretty magical when you see the ocean light up at night, either with breaking waves or running your hands through it.

A woman stands on a pale pink surfboard, riding in a wave. She wears a black wet suit which covers her legs, torso, and arms. Her hair is wet. She is facing the right of the image, while traveling towards the left. The water she is surfing on is a dark gray color, with a white wave break behind her. The sky is cloudy and gray.
Bridget on her surfboard named Purple Rain catching a little wave and waving to a friend on a gray July day along the Southern California coast. Image Credit: Matt Marbach

What is a fun fact about yourself?

I like to sail. I had a friend who solo circumnavigated the globe, so I met him to sail in a variety of places like around French Polynesia, around nearly half of South Africa, and north of the Arctic Circle in this chain of islands called the Lofoten Islands. I was also able to surf north of the Arctic Circle from the sailboat!

What advice would you give to aspiring scientists who are looking to get where you are today?

A woman and two children are seen in the picture. The woman, with blonde curly hair, is to the left of the image, wearing a gray shirt with a NASA meatball logo on it. In the middle is a young girl wearing a purple shirt that says, "I want to be a princess and a physicist" with planets surrounding the words. To the right is a young boy with blond hair who wears a gray T-shirt with the NASA worm logo on it. He is reaching forward and holding a microscope.
Bridget with Chloe and Luca at a San Diego elementary school. They are prepping a plankton sample to view on the microscope. Image Credit: Isa Tavera.

Stay curious and be motivated by asking questions. Follow what interests you and what you’re passionate about. It’s not always a direct path and science can be a little bit tedious, so it’s really important to trust yourself and to pursue things that are interesting to you. Ask questions and don’t be afraid to chat with other scientists. Sometimes people think scientists are intimidating, but we’re mostly pretty nice and slightly awkward, so I would have those conversations!

What is one catch-all statement describing the importance of PACE?

Knowledge is power. For both PACE and science in general, the more information we have the better we understand things, and the more able we are to respond to the changing planet in an effective and meaningful way that empowers us.

Header image caption: Bridget with the PACE observatory. Image Credit: Dennis Henry 

By Erica McNamee, Science Writer at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

Why the PACE team is nocturnal this week

Editor’s note, Feb. 6, 2024: NASA and SpaceX stood down from PACE’s Feb. 6 launch attempt due to unfavorable weather conditions. Launch is now targeted for 1:33 a.m. EST Wednesday, Feb. 7.

Editor’s note, Feb. 7, 2024: NASA and SpaceX stood down from PACE’s Feb. 7 launch attempt due to unfavorable weather conditions. Launch is now targeted for 1:33 a.m. EST Wednesday, Feb. 8.

There’s a good reason why NASA’s PACE satellite is launching in the early morning hours. Late tonight, I’ll venture out in the chilly Merritt Island air to catch a glimpse of a historic sight. At 1:33 a.m., February 6, NASA is slated to launch the Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, ocean Ecosystem (PACE) satellite atop SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket.

Why so early in the morning?  The launch is timed to accommodate the satellite’s orbit around Earth.

PACE will be in a Sun-synchronous orbit, meaning it’s synced to always maintain the same position relative to the Sun. This also means it will cross Earth’s equator at the same local time for each orbit, and the angle at which the sun illuminates Earth will be consistent for each image that it takes. This allows scientists to collect consistent data.

“An Earth-observing satellite generally wants the Sun well overhead during observations,” said Scott Patano, flight dynamics system development lead for PACE at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

To get this level of lighting during its orbit, PACE wants the Sun to be almost behind it as it observes the Earth. Though if the Sun happens to be directly behind the satellite, there may be glare or reflections off the ocean, which isn’t ideal, especially considering one of its main purposes is to collect ocean data. To prevent glare, PACE will be slightly offset – not directly in front of the Sun. If you imagine the Sun is at the 12:00 angle, PACE will orbit at 1:00.

So why the 1:33 a.m. launch? The best answer to that question is… math. Really cool math. By launching south out of Florida on the dark side of the Earth, the math works out perfectly to get the satellite right into place on the approaching India as it crosses the equator for the first time on the daylight side of the Earth by 1:00 p.m. local time.

Centered in the image is a rocket, mid-launch. The launch is taking place at night, so all around the rocket and it's stand is black. The only light is coming from the fire emerging from the bottom of the rocket in an orange glowing color, illuminating a cloud of smoke coming from the rocket as well.
A previous night launch at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches with NASA’s Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) spacecraft onboard from Launch Complex 39A, Thursday, Dec. 9, 2021. Launch occurred at 1:00 a.m. EST. Photo Credit: (NASA/Joel Kowsky)

While some satellites launch first into a temporary orbit, before moving into their permanent position, PACE will be directly injected into its final orbit, “an effectively instantaneous launch,” said Joel Parker, flight dynamics lead for PACE at Goddard.

This leaves little wiggle room for the launch time: a mere 90-second window for the launch to proceed. A tense minute and a half for years of striking data.

So while I’ll be prescribing a late afternoon nap for myself, I know that when I wake up, I’ll be getting ready to see PACE rocketed up to its new home – where it will provide a stunning new view of ours.

Header image caption: The dark water of the turn basin at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center mirrors the night lights and the Vehicle Assembly Building and Launch Control Center, silhouetted against the post-sunset sky. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

By Erica McNamee, Science Writer at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

Trivia All About NASA’s Next Earth-Observing Satellite

I’ll take “All About PACE” for 300, please.

While not exactly like “Jeopardy!”, PACE trivia is just as fun – and often as challenging! To prepare for the upcoming launch of the Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, ocean Ecosystem (PACE) satellite, PACE team members, friends and family gathered on Feb. 4 for an afternoon of facts, food, and fun at the Tiny Turtle restaurant in Cocoa Beach.

Two children stand in the foreground of the image facing away from the camera. They are looking at a screen in front of them. To their right is a woman with blue and purple hair pointing to the screen. On the screen are several blurry blobs - phytoplankton - which are being displayed from the microscope, seen between the heads of the two children.
Ivona Cetinić, an oceanographer at the Ocean Ecology Lab at NASA Goddard, pointed out phytoplankton during the hands-on-experiment portion of the event. The phytoplankton, found in a lake earlier in the day, were projected onto the screen from under a microscope. Image Credit: NASA Goddard/Erica McNamee

The excitement in the atmosphere was palpable – everyone talking animatedly among themselves. The crowd quieted down, however, to see Bridget Seegers, oceanographer for PACE at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, start the hands-on activities scheduled for the event. She and other PACE team members peered into a microscope, showing live phytoplankton and zooplankton that are invisible to the human eye.

She demonstrated how chlorophyll, a molecule found in phytoplankton that gives them their green color, fluoresces in red light. This led into a discussion about satellite remote sensing and how people see light in comparison to how satellites measure it.

Seegers and co-trivia-host Andy Sayer, PACE’s project science lead for the atmosphere, explained how PACE is going to help scientists learn more about the ocean, aerosols, and clouds. They encouraged the crowd to listen carefully – they dropped helpful hints for the trivia questions to come.

This led into what the crowd had all been waiting for: a friendly competition of trivia. Split into teams, the crowd went through a series of 36 fun questions all related to PACE in some way. It ranged from questions familiar to the crowd of scientists and engineers, like “What color does chlorophyll fluoresce?” (answer: red) to some more obscure questions like “How big was the shark from ‘Jaws’?” (answer: 25 feet long).

Four woman are around a table - one standing and three sitting. They are all looking down at pieces of white paper with handwriting on them, pencils in hand for grading. There are other objects, glasses, cups, menus, on the table as well. In the background of the image is a window to the outside, which has a building and a brick road on it.
Seegers and her team of graders checked off correct trivia answers. Image Credit: NASA Goddard/Erica McNamee

It was a competitive crowd and a smart one too, answering some difficult questions about Earth, PACE, and even moons far out into the solar system. Points were tallied, but Seegers stressed that everyone walked away as a winner, having learned more about the mission and gathered together for a fun event.

Header Image Caption: Bridget Seegers and Andy Sayer presenting about phytoplankton and aerosols before the trivia questions began at the Tiny Turtle. Image Credit: NASA Goddard/Erica McNamee

By Erica McNamee, Science Writer at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

People of PACE: Fred Huemmrich Plants the Seeds of Inspiration

Fred Huemmrich is a member of NASA’s Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, ocean Ecosystem (PACE) science and applications team and a research professor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

What is your favorite atmosphere, land, or ocean related book or movie?

“Dune.” To be specific, I really liked the appendix of Dune which has the story of the imperial planetologists, and when I read that as a kid it was the first time I ever thought of the concept of looking at an entire planet’s ecosystem. So, my goal in life is always to become an imperial planetologist.

The image is a selfie of a bearded man seen from the shoulders up. He is wearing a dark green zip-up jacket, and also has glasses on. Behind him are scientific instruments, which look like long metal rods standing up as well as some buckets. In the far background is a grassy field and a clear blue sky.
Fred on top of an instrument tower at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center. Image Credit: Fred Huemmrich

How will PACE help your research?

One of the things that I’m really interested in is the dynamic of ecosystems on land, and how they change over time. PACE really excites me because it’s an opportunity to look – with new, hyperspectral data – at seasonal dynamics of these ecosystems, or even shorter-term effects like droughts or heat stress or cold snaps. With the hyperspectral data available from PACE and OCI we’ll be able to do things like look at changes in leaf level pigment contents and biochemistry. Plants are constantly altering themselves to adjust to the environment and that is something we can see from data on the light that reflects off them. I’m really excited about PACE giving us this data of time series for vegetation types all over the world.

What are you most looking forward to after launch?

I envision doing a study, looking at the indices of plant conditions globally, after the first month of data. I’m going to make a global map because we just don’t even know what it will look like. That’s going to be the first step after launch.

OCI on PACE is going to be able to look at all the colors of the rainbow. What is your favorite color and why?

My favorite color is one you can’t see! Almost all the light that hits plant leaves in the visible wavelengths gets absorbed, except there’s a little hump in the green that they don’t quite absorb as much, which is why we see them as green. But just beyond what we can see, in the near-infrared, leaves have almost no absorption. If we could see leaves in the near-infrared it would almost be like looking at like highway signs that like reflect light back on you really brightly. In green leaves the transition from the visible wavelengths to the near infrared wavelengths is called the red edge and measuring it gives you a lot of information about how much chlorophyll is in leaves.

Do you have a favorite plant?

The image is a selfie of a man seen from the shoulders up. He is wearing a dark colored shirt and has a netted material covering his entire heat. His face can be seen through the netting and he is wearing glasses and has a beard. Behind him is a large grassy field. The sky is bright blue and has some white fluffy clouds.
Fred doing fieldwork in the arctic tundra dealing with the mosquitos. Image Credit: Fred Huemmrich

One that I’m fond of is black spruce. Over the years I’ve done a fair amount of work in the boreal forests. In fact, just last this past summer I was doing fieldwork in the boreal forests in Alaska. I’m really interested in seeing if we can use the PACE data to detect changes in the spruce needle biochemistry that we can’t do with the satellites we have now.

What is a fun fact about yourself?

I worked my way through college in a brewery!

What is some advice that you would give to aspiring scientists who are looking to be where you are today?

A man stands on the left side of the image, seen from the knees up. He is wearing brown khaki pants and a button up shirt which is rolled up at his elbows. He also has glasses on. He looks to his right (the left in the image) and is pointing to a map projected onto a screen to the right of the image. The map is of ice-covered areas in the ocean.
Fred presenting results of arctic tundra research at Grey Towers National Historic Site in Milford, PA. Courtesy: Fred Huemmrich

One of the pieces of advice I give to my undergraduate students is that when I was an undergraduate, not only did I not know what I was going to end up doing, I didn’t know that what I ended up doing even existed. Very often undergraduates don’t have a lot of experience in the range of jobs available in the world. And that’s, of course, changing all the time with technology. One of the things that’s important for them to do is to look around and try to get outside of a narrow thing that they’re focused on, and spread out a little bit to look at what might be available because they might be surprised at what they find.

What is one catch-all statement describing the importance of PACE?

PACE is going to give us a fundamentally new view of the way ecosystems work on the planet.

Header image caption: Fred measuring spectral reflectance and photosynthesis in a cornfield. These types of measurements are used to develop approaches for applying PACE data to determine crop productivity. Courtesy: Fred Huemmrich

By Erica McNamee, Science Writer at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

People of PACE: Jeroen Rietjens Followed His Passions to SPEXone and PACE

Jeroen Rietjens is an instrument scientist at the Netherlands Institute for Space Research (SRON) and worked on the SPEXone polarimeter. PACE’s SPEXone instrument is a multi-angle polarimeter. It measures the intensity, degree and angle of linear polarization of sunlight reflected back from Earth’s atmosphere, land surface, and ocean.

What is your favorite atmosphere or ocean related book or movie?

I like “Cloud Atlas” by David Mitchell a lot. It doesn’t have anything to do with clouds except for the title, but it counts. And it concludes with an ‘oceanic’ wisdom when the impact of actions by individuals are compared to insignificant small drops in a limitless ocean: “Yet what is any ocean but a multitude of drops?”

The image is focused in on a man to the left of the image wearing glasses and a blue and red short sleeved polo short. He wears a headset, where the wire is hanging down past the far side of his head. He is pointing at a computer screen which is in the background of the image. In front of him, but out of focus in the iamge are two other people, one sitting next to the man and one sitting across from him, closer to the camera. At the table they are sitting at are computers, coffee mugs, and water bottles.
Jeroen looking at instrument telemetry in the PACE I&T control room shortly after the integration of SPEXone onto the PACE observatory. Image Credit: Dennis Henry

What is your background?

I have a background in applied physics, and I worked with polarization sensitive instrumentation for my master’s and PhD research. At SRON, I work as an instrument scientist. We are the people who fill the gap between the scientists who have great ideas about what they want to measure, and the engineers who build the hardware that perform these measurements. We specify the instruments and do the analysis and make sure that the hardware will survive in space and perform as the scientists desire.

What are you most looking forward to during launch?

It concludes a long period of tremendous work and I hope that we can experience that with all the people who contributed to PACE.

The focal point of the image is the bright sun, centered. Two reflections of the sun are seen to the left and right of the main bright spot. Below the sun is a grassy landscape with a bush directly below the sun. The sky is a dark blue color.
An image of a sundog, one of the most common types of ice halos. https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/blogs/earthmatters/2014/02/03/reader-pics-sundogs/ Image Credit: Adam Voiland

What is your favorite color and why?

My favorite color is green. The why is more difficult. My second favorite color would be blue, so I think it’s colors from nature that I like.

The image looks down from a plane, looking at an expanse of fluffy clouds. Centered in the image is a glory, a faint circular rainbow.
A glory photographed from 11 km altitude somewhere between Greenland and Canada as Jeroen was coming into the US to watch the 2017 solar eclipse. Image Credit: Jeroen Rietjens

Do you have a favorite atmospheric phenomenon?

I like rainbows a lot! And any other scattering phenomena, such as a glory, or a sundog. The latter occurs in the presence of high clouds with ice crystals: due to refraction by horizontally aligned ice crystals, you can see two additional ‘suns’ at specific angles left and right of the sun.

A man and a woman are standing side by side, the man to the left with his arm around the woman's shoulder. They both have glasses on and their faces are covered in a glittery face paint. They wear green, yellow, and red striped shirts and black vests that have colorful puns on them. They both have large hats upon their heads with green, yellow, and red spirals on them. The lighting in the room is dim and there are streamers hanging on the walls behind them.
Jeroen and his wife in their parade costume of 2020. Image Credit: Jeroen Rietjens

 

 

What is a fun fact about yourself?

Outside of work, and mainly during the winter period, me and my family participate in the “Vastelaovendj”-activities in my home-village. This is the Limburgse (a Dutch province) carnival, consisting of, among other things, a yearly music contest, open stage, presentation of the Prince Carnival, a ‘peasant’s wedding’ and a parade. It is a lot of fun and I particularly like the role-reversal aspect of this tradition.

What advice would you give to aspiring scientists or engineers who are looking to get where you are today?

Follow your passion. I had a weakness for space. I was playing with a Space Shuttle and Lego rockets when I was young and was always interested in space. Along the way, I lost track of it but it’s not really a coincidence, I think, that I still ended up working at a space research institute. So, follow your passion and try to make work your hobby and I think you have awesome life.

What is one catch-all statement describing the importance of PACE?

PACE will yield unprecedented data sets that will enhance research into climate modeling, understanding clouds and aerosols and their impact on the Earth climate.

The image shows a landscape of a neighborhood with grass areas, streets, and some houses to the left at the horizon. There are som trees in the center as well as a lamp post. The sky is cloudy and a gray color. The featured part of the image isa double rainbow, spanning from the entire left to right of the image. The inner rainbow is brighter while the outer rainbow is faint.
An atmospheric treat for Jeroen during a bicycle-ride coming home from work. Image Credit: Jeroen Rietjens

Header image caption: “Very proud to have had the opportunity to pose in the Goddard cleanroom with the fully assembled and tested PACE satellite, which hosts our small SPEXone instrument,” said Rietjens. Image Credit: Dennis Henry

By Erica McNamee, Science Writer at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

People of PACE: Natasha Sadoff Connects PACE Data to Benefit Society

Natasha Sadoff is the deputy coordinator for the applications program and PACE.

What is your favorite ocean or atmosphere related book or movie?

Probably “The Little Mermaid.” It’s a whole other world with the wildlife (and mermaids) in their own kingdom, so it just makes the ocean very magical.

The picture is taken from below the water, looking upwards at a woman who is floating facedown. She is wearing a black wetsuit and has a blue floating device around her waist. She is signaling two "okay" signs to the camera. The bottom third of the image shows the rocky reef, and is a dark brown color with some light blue reflections of the water on it. The middle third of the image shows the deep blue of the open water in the background. The top third of the image is still underwater, but is closer to the surface, so reflections of the light blue sky are distorted and rippling.
Before a conference in Australia, Natasha took a two-day snorkeling trip to the Great Barrier Reef! “It was one of the most incredible things I’ve done,” she said. Credit: Natasha Sadoff

What is your background?

I’m a social scientist and a geographer, and I have a broad background in environmental management. I think about the information and data that environmental managers might need, and how to translate data from a satellite in a way that makes it more usable and actionable for them. Part of my job is to serve as a liaison between the scientists and data managers working on PACE and the community of users that will put the data to use – and make sure that PACE data will be accessible, usable, and actionable for the community.

What are you most looking forward to during launch?

The energy at launch is just going to be crazy, with everybody who’s worked so hard for nearly two decades getting together. We’ll be happy once it’s in the air and in space and getting data, but when we’re at launch, it’s out of our hands. So, it’s a time to celebrate and be together and be excited.

I’m also excited because it’s a nighttime launch, scheduled for 1:30 in the morning, so I think that adds a neat air to it because it’s going to be so beautiful with the night sky. I’ve seen some photographs of other missions getting launched at night and it just seems like the visuals will be magnified in the middle of the night.

We know that OCI is going to be looking at all the different colors of the rainbow with its hyperspectral abilities. What is your favorite color and why?

I like the richness and depth of the blues and the purples. It makes me think of the nighttime or space!

The image is centered on a woman riding a brown horse that has black hair. The woman wears a black jacket and riding pants and also has on a helmet. The horse appears to be in movement, cantering, with its tail swishing, and is facing the right side of the image. The ground they are riding on is a dirt pasture, and behind them lies a grove of green trees with green grass below it.
In her free time, Natasha rides and trains her horse, Elena, and compete locally in dressage shows. Credit: Austen Gage

What is a fun fact about yourself that not a lot of people might know about?

I have a horse and so most nights and weekends I am riding and training and working with my horse. Her name is Elena and she’s sassy. You know when people have a pet and it’s like their son, their daughter? People joke that Elena is my sister because she’s so opinionated and very stubborn. So, we have kind of a love/hate relationship in our training. She teaches me patience and resilience every day!

A woman stands in front of a set of nine screens, which together show an image of part of the Earth, with the PACE logo above it. She is wearing a black dress and holds a microphone. The woman is facing a group of people who have their backs to the camera and are watching the woman present.
For PACE Applications, Natasha regularly gives presentations and talks to audiences of all kinds about PACE science and applied uses of the data. In this presentation, she was talking to engineering students in Singapore. Credit: Natasha Sadoff

What advice would you give to aspiring scientists who are looking to get where you are today?

There’s not a linear path, and there doesn’t have to be a linear path. I know a few of us who don’t have the traditional science PhD background love to say this: There’s a role for everybody at NASA. Whether you’re in communications and marketing or whether you’re in science, or whether you’re somewhere in between (which is kind of like me), there’s a role for you at NASA. While STEM is obviously huge and critical and we need more women and we need more minorities in STEM, we also need people in the social sciences. STEM is only as good as our ability to communicate about it and talk to people about it.

Header image caption: Before the PACE observatory left for Kennedy, Natasha had the opportunity to get into a “bunny-suit” and experience what it was like to enter the PACE clean room! Credit: Denny Henry

By Erica McNamee, Science Writer at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

People of PACE: Jeremy Werdell is the PACE Mission Scientific Conscience

Jeremy Werdell is the project scientist for the PACE mission as well as a biological oceanographer in the Ocean Ecology Laboratory at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

What is your favorite ocean- or atmosphere-related book or movie?

“Jaws!” And it’s not close. “Jaws.” Best movie, without question, ever made.

What are you most looking forward to on the night of launch?

The operation of the spacecraft and instruments. I am going to be an absolute nervous wreck the entire time and it won’t be until systems engineering and project management tell me that everything is okay and that the fun is now going to begin that I will finally breathe easy. So, yeah, the transition from “holy crap” to “it’s all working!”

A man stands on the right side of the image seen from the shoulders up. He is wearing a white clean suite that covers over his head and forehead as well as a white mask that covers his nose and mouth. Behind him and to the left in the image is a spacecraft, PACE. Several parts of the spacecraft are covered in a silver-colored foil-like material. The room that the man and the spacecraft are in has very large ceilings which are seen in the background of the selfie.
Jeremy Werdell wearing in a “bunny suit” or cleanroom suit to get up close and personal with the PACE observatory. Credit: Jeremy Werdell/NASA

What are you most looking forward to after the night of launch?

Watching the energy emerge within and across our communities. I’m enjoying taking on the role of making sure the mission is as good as it can be so that it’s something our community can grow into. It is a gift from NASA and the government and community that preceded me to this next generation of scientists that can and will do something amazing.

The Ocean Color Intrument (OCI) on PACE is going to to show us colors of the ocean in a hyperspectral range, which is like using a box of 256 crayons instead of the previous boxes of 8 colored crayons. So, of all the colors in the large crayon box, what is your favorite color and why?

Green, and specifically the wavelength 532 nanometers. That exact green, for two reasons: One, for some weird reason, my family, including my wife, all jibe with green. Two, when I first started a master’s degree at the University of Connecticut, I was learning how to use a spectrophotometer and my advisor, Collin, pointed out a green beam within it and said “532 nanometers, it’s a beautiful color.” That has always stuck with me.

A man wearing a black hoodie takes a selfie. In front of him is a loaf of light tan, freshly baked bread, which takes up the entire length of the image, left to right. The bread is resting on a cooling rack.
Jeremy’s latest loaf of bread, fresh from the oven. Credit: Jeremy Werdell

What’s a fun fact about yourself that not a lot of people might know about you?

I tell almost anybody who will listen that I’d rather be a professional chef than a scientist. In fact, I even have a chef’s knife tattoo now.

I’ll cook anything. I use cooking as therapy – my mental health improves by just standing in the kitchen after work. My wife and I started cooking as a couple when we first had kids because we weren’t leaving the house as often.  But, eventually I kind of just elbowed everybody else out of the kitchen and spent most of my time there.

What is some advice that you would give to aspiring scientists that are looking to be where you are today?

Three things. The one thing that I think got me to where I am within Goddard was the opportunity when I was early in my career to spend a lot of time writing papers and interacting with the science community, including organizing workshops. I had a lot of latitude to get out and about, above and beyond my day-to-day activities.  I found that writing and external engagements to be very good ways to get the community to know me.

A man stands in the image upon a stage. The black stage takes up a majority of the bottom half of the image. The man holds a microphone and is looking to the right in the image, out to the audience. Behind him to the right is a bright red curtain, and to the left is a projected image of a presentation, which is on a slide that is mostly blue and purple in color.
Werdell presenting PACE and NASA Earth Science at Nerd Nite in San Francisco several weeks ago. Credit: Jennifer Werdell

The second thing, which I tell any early career scientist that will listen, is to serve on as many research panels for NASA headquarters as you can. It’s very empowering to sit on the other side of the table and digest the evaluation side of the process. What you learn from doing this really improves the quality of the proposals that you write and, whether anyone likes it or not, being successful in “proposal land” does have its advantages in terms of career advancement.

Third, public speaking. Spend as much time getting out of your comfort zone and talking to anybody who will listen in front of any stage. I can’t stress this enough. Start when you’re in high school. I know most kids hate standing in front of the audience, but you will be so much better at what you do if you can do this. Even if you’re not good at it, don’t fret, just keep at it and find some comfort with it. Eventually the quality will come.

What is one catch-all statement that you would say describing the importance of PACE?

All citizens of the Earth should realize everything is connected: land, ocean, and atmosphere. PACE is NASA’s next great investment in the combined studies of all these aspects of the Earth’s system. With its capabilities, there’s so much scientific growth that will be accomplished, which makes PACE incredibly important to how we understand what we’re doing to our home planet.

A man wearing a blue T-shirt with a spaceship printed on it, takes a selfie, taking up the right side of the image. He is sitting at a table at a restaurant with a plate of food in front of him. In the background of the image is a white boat with one man sitting on it. It is floating in a harbor, the water calm and blue.
Jeremy took a quiet moment with all of his favorite things – food, water, sunshine. Credit: Jeremy Werdell

Header image caption: Enjoying the PACE scale model on display at SRON in the Netherlands. Credit: Jeremy Werdell/NASA

By Erica McNamee, Science Writer at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

Setting the Stage for PACE at AGU

After years of planning, building, and testing, 2024 is the PACE mission’s time to shine: Launch is slated for February and the team is eagerly awaiting a wealth of ocean- and atmosphere-related data to dig into soon after.

Several PACE scientists closed out 2023 by sharing this enthusiasm for the mission at the American Geophysical Union’s annual meeting December 11-15 in San Francisco, which drew more than 24,000 Earth and space scientists.

“This is such a profound quantum leap forward in terms of our ability to monitor our home planet,” Jeremy Werdell, PACE project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, told a group gathered in front of NASA’s hyperwall screens.

A man wearing glasses, a dark polo shirt, khakis and a nametag on a lanyard stands in front of a large display made of nine screens combined into one. On the screen is a visual showing PACE study areas, labelled on a schematic of the ocean, atmosphere and terrestrial ecosystems.
PACE project scientist Jeremy Werdell outlines diverse areas of study that data from the mission could help answer questions for, at the NASA exhibit booth at the American Geophysical Union’s annual meeting in San Francisco, Dec. 12, 2023. Image credit: NASA/Kate Ramsayer

He showed a visualization highlighting Earth’s pulsing phytoplankton blooms, masses of aerosols drifting across oceans, ice sheets retreating, and more. It’s 20 years of our home planet breathing, Werdell said. Insights like these about Earth are one of NASA’s key accomplishments, he said, right up there with landing on the Moon.

In the conference’s poster hall, researchers presented their work to get ready for using the data. Amir Ibrahim, an ocean scientist with NASA Goddard, talked to colleagues about a tool he is using to simulate the data that the team will receive once PACE’s Ocean Color Instrument is up and running in orbit.

“We’re here to interact with the community who will use the data, and share with them the great capabilities OCI will offer across various disciplines,” Ibrahim said, standing in front of a poster filled with data visualizations and charts.

Data from PACE will touch on many aspects of the interconnected Earth system, including air quality and water quality, Natasha Sadoff, PACE applications deputy coordinator, told the audience at a presentation later that day. With aerosol products from the mission, people can help improve health advisories for wildfire smoke. Other data products will help notify resource managers of harmful algal blooms, wetland health indicators, or even oil spills and seeps.

A woman in a light-colored blazer stands behind a podium on a dais, giving a presentation. On the right side of the image, a screen shows a colorful visualization of Earth, with concentrations of different types of phytoplankton in the oceans represented with different colors. In the foreground of the image are the backs of attendees’ heads.
Natasha Sadoff, PACE applications deputy coordinator, speaks before a crowd of Earth and space scientists at the American Geophysical Union’s annual meeting in San Francisco, on Dec. 11, 2023. Image credit: NASA/Kate Ramsayer

She showed a global map of the locations of mission Early Adopters, people who are working with the mission ahead of launch to figure out how to use the satellite data to help address different questions across a wide range of disciplines. PACE will generate a new world of data, Sadoff said, and the mission welcomes others interested in exploring it.

“We’re always looking for new community members,” she said.

Header image caption: At a December 2023 conference, scientists presented findings about what the PACE mission and its instruments could accomplish after launch, scheduled for Feb. 6, 2023. Image credit: NASA/Kate Ramsayer

By Kate Ramsayer, Strategic Communications Lead for Earth Science Missions at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center