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The first of Europe's new Earth-monitoring satellites launches today


If the first step in fixing a problem is knowing about it, then Earth's worry-list is about to get a lot longer. The European Space Agency is launching the first of six satellites designed to monitor the choppy environmental conditions down here on our fragile planet. Sentinel-1A will blast off later today, where it'll track floodwaters, deforestation and other natural disasters. When its partner, Sentinel-1B, arrives in 2015, the pair will be able to grab a radar image of anywhere on the planet within six days. Four more satellites will come online before 2020, each one tasked with observing a different element of our ecosystem, including air quality, land changes and sea levels. Think of them as kinda like the team from Captain Planet, only without a "heart" and with more terrifying consequences if they mess up.

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