Earth sciences researcher Dr. Antonia Gambacorta has earned the 2023 Goddard IRAD Technology Leadership Award for pioneering new ways to measure the lower layers of Earth’s atmosphere from space.
The award, presented by the chief technologist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, recognizes Gambacorta’s work demonstrating how microwave hyperspectral sound, measuring hundreds of thousands of wavelengths of microwave light, could dissect Earth’s atmospheric planetary boundary layer (PBL). He also conceptualized a microwave photonic radiometer instrument to reveal these measurements.
The part of the Earth’s atmosphere. live Gambacorta said the place where he is located and has the most experience studying is the most difficult to measure from space due to the volume and complex behavior of the air above it. Developing the ability to probe and measure the boundary layer on a global and routine basis is important to better understand its connections to the rest of our atmosphere, Earth’s surface and oceans.
“The unique challenge of PBL requires a novel path forward that brings together components of traditionally disparate observing systems to enable transformative scientific advances in Earth system science,” said researcher Joseph Santanello. “To that end, Dr. Gambacorta’s efforts extend beyond individual technological developments and are embodied in her aspirational vision for PBL to sound like ‘the tie that unites.’ Equally remarkably, Dr. Gambacorta’s passion, enthusiasm and respect for her colleagues have been evident at every stage of the project’s development.”
In the search for solutions to measure the boundary layer, Gambacorta stepped forward to lead Goddard’s hyperspectral microwave projects and became the face of the center’s Decadal Survey Incubation (DSI) efforts. Through multiple Internal Research and Development, or IRAD, grants, she and her team conducted fundamental research to demonstrate the effectiveness of microwave hyperspectral sounding, conceptualized a microwave photonic radiometer instrument, and, most recently, began developing a framework for integrate data from multiple sensors for the boundary layer. scientific observations.
“Antonia’s innovation rises above her individual successes as a capable and creative innovator,” said Goddard Chief Technologist Peter Hughes. “She leveraged multiple programs to incubate new technologies while also engaging expertise from across agencies and around the world to connect with other resources.”
Its cutting-edge innovations and research garnered support from NASA’s Earth Sciences Technology Office and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Specifically, Gambacorta leveraged his successes at IRAD to secure a project award from the Earth Sciences Technology Office’s Instrument Incubator Program (IIP) to further develop his team’s microwave photonic radiometer concept and funding from DSI to advance the multi-sensor fusion framework. Additionally, his push enabled a DSI-funded airborne instruments project that attempted to transform CoSMIR, Goddard’s cone scanning millimeter-wave radiometer, into a hyperspectral sensor. That project is led by up-and-coming instrument scientist Rachael Kroodsma.
This entire portfolio now managed by Gambacorta also culminated in a successful NOAA Broad Agency announcement proposal to demonstrate hyperspectral microwave radiometry. Through his engagement with colleagues at ESTO, NOAA and the European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites, Hughes said Goddard’s PBL and hyperspectral microwave initiatives are globally viewed as the trusted strategy for understanding the planetary boundary layer. Goddard is widely considered a pioneer in the use of integrated photonics for Earth remote sensing due to Gambacorta’s leadership, he added.
“Antonia is a true inspiration to the technologists and scientists on her teams,” added her colleague Santanello. “His innovation of hers and contribution of hers to Goddard and to the community at large can also be measured in each of these ways.”
By Karl B. Hille
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland.