NASA flyovers to measure pollution in major cities

NASA has confirmed plans to conduct extensive flyovers over Maryland next week as part of an initiative to study air pollution in major cities.

According to CBS, the flyovers are slated for Maryland’s major roads, including Baltimore’s beltway, the 95 corridor and Chesapeake Bay Bridge.

As one might expect, the low-flying NASA plane will be outfitted with special equipment to accurately measure air pollution levels in lower altitudes.

“The public I think is very interested in knowing where air pollution problems are the largest, and then they have the ability to make their own decisions about their own activities and times and places they would like to avoid,”  explained Dr. James Crawford, NASA atmospheric scientist.

Although Maryland’s Department of Environment already maintains six pollution monitoring stations on the ground, they are spread out over a large geographic area and can only measure pollution levels in a specific area. 

Similarly, NASA satellites monitor air pollution all over the globe, but those readings are often too general to pinpoint specific levels of contaminates.

“You can’t really tell from the satellite data itself whether that pollution is somewhere higher in the atmosphere or down near the surface,” said Dr. Kenneth Pickering, NASA atmospheric scientist.

In contrast, the specially equipped plane will fly low over roadways and in spiral pattern over the ground monitoring stations to more accurately measure pollution levels. 

“It’s [definitely] a challenging mission,” added Rich Rodgers, NASA research pilot. “[Certainly] one of the most challenging because we are doing it over the top of Washington, D.C. and Baltimore this summer.”

Note: Flight dates are contingent upon weather conditions and will be confirmed by 5 p.m. the day before takeoff.