On February 25, after a mission that lasted for 17 years, NASA’s Solar Radiation and Climate Experiment (SORCE) has been put to sleep. The most important satellite for observing and understanding long-term climate change caused by the Sun exceeded any expectations.
It was initially designed to perform measurements of incoming X-ray, ultraviolet, visible, near-infrared, and total solar radiation for five years. But it did son, on and off, for 17 years. After eight years, its batteries degraded down to the point of only being able to perform daytime-only observations. But it was still useful even so.
NASA tried to replace it with Glory spacecraft but unfortunately, Glory’s glory didn’t last. It failed during launch in 2011. Until 2017, when the Total and Spectral solar Irradiance Sensor (TSIS) got safely to the International Space Station and started to complete SORCE’s mission, old SORCE was all climate scientists had to do their job.
NASA’s SORCE Mission Assessed The Sun’s Impact On Earth’s Climate
“Climate scientists need to know how much the sun varies, so they know how much change in the Earth’s climate is due to solar variation,” said Dong Wu, project scientist for SORCE at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.
Another important aspect of SORCE’s mission was to help scientists understand what’s happening with the Sun. Does it dim or does it get brighter? It’s a very important question. Life on Earth depends on the Sun’s faith. If it is dimming, then it means that the Sun is on its way to become a dwarf. That might mean that life will no longer be possible on Earth. If it becomes brighter, that too might end life as we know it. So, SORCE had a pretty important mission up there measuring solar irradiance.
“SORCE data provide a unique understanding of how the flow of energy from the sun varies and how these variations impact Earth’s weather, climate systems, and, ultimately, all life on Earth that depends on solar irradiance,” said Eric Moyer, deputy project manager for NASA’s Earth science mission operations.