Erika Podest
Erika Podest is a scientist with the Water and Carbon Cycles Group at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Hi Everyone,

My name is Erika Podest, and I am a scientist at JPL working on the SMAP mission. I’ll be writing about SMAP’s debut into space and providing updates during this exciting time. Welcome to my first post!

As a child growing up in tropical Panama and enjoying its exuberant nature, I always had a love for the environment. I went from playing in nature to studying it, and focused my research on the use of satellites to study Earth. As a doctoral candidate, I did part of my research as an intern at JPL, and this opportunity led me to ultimately become a scientist at JPL.

As I was studying for my doctorate, I began working with SMAP scientists- back when the mission was known as Hydros. My research involved determining the freeze/thaw state of land surfaces in the northern high latitudes like Alaska and Eurasia, which was also one of SMAP’s objectives.

After more than seven years working on this satellite mission, I can say it’s been a fascinating journey for my colleagues and me to see SMAP go from a concept on paper to a reality. Seeing the satellite fully assembled and ready to launch is the tip of the iceberg. There’s just so much more! It’s taken many years of hard work by hundreds of people from different fields, all of whom have brought their wealth of accumulated experience to the project.

For many, this launch is the culmination of their efforts. For others like me, the data collection is the beginning of the most important part of the mission, and I’m excited about the great science and the societal benefits that SMAP will bring to the world.

For those of you interested in following the launch and related events go to:

On launch day, Jan. 29, NASA TV launch commentary coverage of the countdown will begin at 4 a.m. PST. Launch is targeted for 6:20:42 a.m. PST (9:20:42 a.m. EST) with a three minute launch window. Spacecraft separation from the rocket occurs 56 minutes, 52 seconds after launch.

Everything is going according to schedule and the SMAP Readiness Review has given the “go” for launch. I’m ready too!


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