NASA’s cutting-edge carbon-detecting tool has left Earth. SpaceX blasted the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-3 (OCO-3) to the ISS aboard the Elon-Musk’s reliable Falcon 9 rocket. And OCO-3 has been tasked with the most important of missions, keeping tabs on the planet’s amassing carbon dioxide emissions, now at their highest levels in millions of years.

Dr Annmarie Eldering, the NASA project scientist for OCO-3 said: ”Carbon dioxide is the most important gas humans are emitting into the atmosphere.

Carbon dioxide is the most important gas humans are emitting into the atmosphere

NASA OCO-3 project scientist Dr Annmarie Eldering

“Understanding how it will play out in the future is critical.”

After NASA’s precious cargo load arrives at the ISS, astronauts will use a long robotic arm to attach the refrigerator-sized precision instrument to the side of the Earth-orbiting space station.

OCO-3 — which can detect carbon dioxide concentrations on Earth within 1 part per million — almost did not make it into space.

President Donald Trump’s climate science-opposed administration sought to eliminate the earth-monitoring instruments over the last two years.

Britton Stephens, a senior scientist at the National Centre for Atmospheric Research admitted: “We heard OCO-3 was not going to go.

“There have been lots of ups and downs in the project.”

But advocacy from NASA leaders and congressional support kept OCO-3 alive.

OCO-3 will follow in the footsteps of OCO-2 by continuing to precisely monitor the areas on Earth that emit bounties of carbon dioxide, and those areas that suck or absorb CO2 out of the atmosphere, such as oceans and forests.

The growing log of measurements makes OCO-3 especially valuable to scientists, who need long-term data to follow trends and discover novel data.

Pontus Olofsson, an associate research professor at Boston University said: ”The longer the records grow, the more important they become.

“It is like an exponential increase in importance.”

After the SpaceX rocket lifted into space, the booster — the bottom portion of the rocket containing nine powerful engines — returned to Earth.

The SpaceX Falcon 9 then successfully landed on a drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean.

SpaceX now regularly lands its rockets on both drone ships and land.

These reusable rockets are now a fundamental part of SpaceX’s business model.

Earlier this month, SpaceX impressively landed three boosters after its massive Falcon Heavy rocket, made-up of three rockets strapped together, launched an Arab communications satellite into Earth’s orbit.

NASA had slated the launch for late April, but asked SpaceX to delay it until the space agency could fix a power distribution problem on the ISS, currently home to six astronauts and cosmonauts.

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