NASA launches space laser satellite to study ice sheets, glaciers
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NASA’s most advanced space laser satellite blasted off Saturday on a mission to track ice loss around the world and improve forecasts of sea level rise as the climate warms. Cloaked in pre-dawn darkness, the $1 billion, half-ton ICESat-2 launched aboard a Delta II rocket from Vandenberg Air Force base in California at 6:02 am (1302 GMT). “Three, two one, liftoff!” said a launch commentator on NASA television. “Lifting ICESat-2 on a quest to explore the polar ice sheets of our constantly changing home planet.” The launch marks the first time in nearly a decade that NASA has had a tool in orbit to measure ice sheet surface elevation across the globe. The preceding mission, ICESat, launched in 2003 and ended in 2009.