Scheduled for launch in early 2007, SMOS is the second Earth Explorer Opportunity mission to be implemented as part of ESA's Living Planet Programme. The main aim of the mission is to further the development of climatological, meteorological and hydrological models by observing soil moisture over the Earth's landmasses and sea-surface salinity over the oceans for a period of at least 3 years. At the signing ceremony, Prof. Jos Achache, ESA's Director of Earth Observation Programmes, stated that, "SMOS will provide a major advancement in our ability to model and understand the global hydrological cycle."
The moisture in soil and the salt in the oceans are intrinsically linked to the Earth's water cycle and climate. Currently, in-situ measurements for soil moisture are sparse, but if we are to better understand the water cycle so that the forecasting of climate, weather and extreme events such as floods can be improved more data are urgently required. The same is true for data on ocean salinity - only a small fraction of the ocean is sampled on any regular basis. However, salinity is an important factor driving the currents in the ocean and in turn ocean circulation plays a crucial role moderating the climate. Therefore, comprehensive data on ocean salinity would greatly improve our knowledge of the conditions that influence global ocean circulation and thus climate.
Not only will this mission further our understanding of the Earth system, but it will also demonstrate a new measuring technique by adopting a completely different
Contact: Michael Rast
European Space Agency