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Press Room

30 August 2010

Groundbreaking NASA satellite mission comes to a finale

The NASA Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite (ICESat) re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere at approximately 5 a.m. EDT on August 30 over the Barents Sea. The mission reached the end of its productive seven-year life in June, when NASA began decommissioning the satellite due to instrument failure. But while the satellite has reached the end of its mission, scientists will be using the data it collected for years to come, managed at the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

ICESat operated from 2003 to 2009, transmitting vital data on conditions of sea ice, glaciers, ice sheets, and ice shelves. Its ability to measure elevation helped scientists study changes to these features, in three dimensions. These data have been urgently needed as the Earth’s polar regions show rapid change as a result of climate warming.

Data from ICESat’s Geoscience Laser Altimeter System (GLAS) instrument are archived at NSIDC. Although the mission is now over, NSIDC will continue to maintain the GLAS data archive and serve data and information to researchers. NSIDC is also the designated data archive for Operation IceBridge, a NASA airborne remote sensing mission that will fill the gap between the decommissioned ICESat mission and ICESat II, scheduled for launch in 2015.

University of Colorado at Boulder Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) professionals and students were instrumental in operating the NASA ICESat mission. For more information about LASP’s role in the project, see the press release at

More information

NSIDC’s role on ICESat:
ICESat data at NSIDC:
IceBridge data at NSIDC:
Decommissioning of ICESat:
NASA press release on ICESat re-entry:
LASP Mission Operations:
Students at LASP:

Media Contacts

Stephanie Renfrow, LASP:; +1 303.735.5814

Katherine Leitzell, NSIDC:; +1 303.492.1497


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