The most ambitious effort yet to measure virtually all of our planet’s water, from its oceans to its rivers and lakes, and to better understand how oceans absorb carbon and heat–critical to understanding climate change—gets underway with the launch of the SWOT–the Surface Water and Ocean Topography–satellite from the Vandenberg Space Force Base in California at 5:46am Chicago time Thursday, Dec. 15th.

It’s a joint mission of NASA and the French Space Agency with the participation of the Canadian Space Agency and the UK Space Agency.

Says NASA of the satellite’s capabilities: “Using SWOT’s state-of the-art technology, scientists will observe ocean features with 10 times the resolution of current technologies along with providing high-definition views of freshwater bodies.

It can observe the entire length of nearly all rivers wider than 330 feet (100 meters), as well as collect data on more than a million lakes larger than 15 acres (62,500 square meters).”

READ MORE ABOUT THE MISSION AND UPCOMING COVERAGE OF THE LAUNCH NEXT WEEK HERE.

Repurposing nuclear waste to power spacecraft?

Scientists at the European Space Agency are hoping such technology could be put to work to power spacecraft by the end of the decade.

Check out this article on how nuclear waste will help.