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Launched on 2 November 2009, the SMOS mission is designed to map soil moisture and ocean salinity. Such data provide precious insight for meteorologists, hydrologists and climatologists. Monitoring ocean salinity enables them to detect the currents that strongly influence weather and climate patterns, and to better understand the role of oceans in the carbon cycle, while measuring soil moisture tells us about interactions between Earth’s surface, vegetation and the atmosphere, thereby increasing the accuracy of weather forecasts. Soil moisture data also allow us to better assess flood and drought risks, helping to manage water resources more efficiently. The SMOS satellite acquires all of these data with a radiometer that measures microwave radiation emitted from Earth’s surface at a frequency that is highly sensitive to water content.
SMOS is the second Mission of Opportunity of the European Space Agency’s Earth Explorer programme. It is being led by ESA, CNES and CDTI, the Spanish government agency with responsibility for space. CNES supplied the spacecraft bus and is in charge of data collection by the satellite. The agency also developed and is operating the SMOS satellite control centre at its Toulouse Space Centre. The SMOS data centre (CATDS) at Plouzané, France, was also developed by CNES and the mission’s Principal Investigator (PI) is Dr Yann Kerr, a CNES research scientist.