By Alex DeMetrick

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A special telescope called “GEDI” is packed for lift-off next month.

Its mission, according to chief scientific researcher Dr. Ralph Dubayah with the University of Maryland: “It’s going to measure how tall trees are across the globe.”

Project manager Jim Pontius says it will reach all the way “up to about Canada and then down to southern South America.”

“GEDI” was designed and built at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

It took four years and cost $94 million to build.

Next month, it will be carried to the International Space Station, where it will be installed outside. It will fire three lasers, which act like radar, scanning earth’s forests below. What bounces back creates a high resolution 3D image.

“And the return from those lasers can be correlated with vegetation, tree height, density of the canopy, leaf metrics, and things like that,” Pontius added.

This is important because when trees burn, they release not just smoke but carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas contributing to global warming. The bigger the trees, the more carbon is released, while smaller trees absorb carbon dioxide.

Dr. Dubayah wants to see just how many big and little trees there are.

“Then we’ll have this great balance between how much carbon we’re putting in because of deforestation and how much we’re pulling out because we have young trees that are rapidly growing,” he said.

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Alex DeMetrick


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