Joint NASA and Italian Space Agency Air Pollution Mission Announced

Multi-Angle Imager for Aerosols (MAIA) is a collaborative mission between NASA and the Italian Space Agency Agenzia Spaziale Italiana (ASI). The mission will look into how airborne particle pollution affects human health. MAIA marks the first-time epidemiologists and public health specialists have been involved in the development of a NASA satellite mission with the aim of improving societal health.

Prior to the conclusion of 2024, the MAIA observatory will be launched. The composition consists of a scientific instrument developed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California and an ASI satellite named PLATiNO-2. The data collected from the ground sensors, observatory, and atmospheric models will be analyzed by the mission. A comparison will be made between the outcomes and data on human birth, hospitalization and death. Through this, it will shed light on the potential health effects of solid and liquid pollutants in the air we breathe.

Aerosols, which are airborne particles, have been related to several health issues. This includes lung cancer and respiratory conditions like heart attacks, asthma, and strokes. Additionally, there are unfavorable reproductive and perinatal outcomes most notably preterm birth as well as low infant birth weight. The toxicity of various particle mixes has not been well recognized, according to David Diner, who works as the principal investigator for MAIA. Hence, this mission will aid in our comprehension of how airborne particle pollution poses a risk to our health.

A pointable spectropolarimetric camera makes up the observatory’s science tool. The electromagnetic spectrum allows for capturing digital images from various angles. This includes near-infrared, visible, ultraviolet, and shortwave infrared regions. By studying patterns and prevalence of health problems related to poor air quality, the MAIA science team will gain a better understanding. This will be done by using this data to analyze the size and geographic distribution of airborne particles. In addition, they will analyze the composition and abundance of the airborne particles.

In the lengthy history of collaboration between NASA and ASI, MAIA represents the pinnacle of what NASA and ASI organizations have to offer. This pertains to understanding, proficiency, and Earth-observation technology. Francesco Longo, head of ASI’s Earth Observation and Operation Division, highlighted that this combined mission’s science will help people for a long time to come.

The deal, which was signed in January 2023, continued decades of cooperation between ASI and NASA. This includes the 1997 Cassini mission launch to Saturn. The Light Italian CubeSat for Imaging Asteroids, or LICIACube, from ASI, was a critical component of NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission in 2022. It was carried as a supplementary payload on board the Orion spacecraft for the Artemis I mission.