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Who We Are.

From the air we breathe to upper atmospheres with commercial aircraft and stationary satellites, to less familiar planetary atmospheres explored by landing spacecraft, the Science Directorate at NASA’s Langley Research Center is on it.

NASA Langley provides essential science leadership to NASA with decades of intellectual expertise in the areas of Atmospheric Composition, Air Quality, Earth’s Energy Budget and Lidar Remote Sensing that supports aeronautics, space technology, exploration and Earth science.

Our data can be used to help others to respond in responsible ways.

What We Do.

The Science Directorate at NASA’s Langley Research Center studies atmospheres using passive and lidar remote sensing, in situ and airborne instruments. Our Flight Projects execute visions to obtain ground-breaking science through spaceflight platforms.​

We are committed to delivering science that is balanced between Research & Analysis, technology development, airborne science and flight development. Through our ground and flight hardware development, we infuse technology and gather science observations that produce knowledge, information and insight that informs policy and serves society.

We provide and maintain capabilities to ensure effective and affordable delivery of that knowledge.

SD Organizational Chart

Satellite Timeline


We support LaRC proposal teams as they prepare for, develop, and submit winning proposals. We work across all disciplines and Directorates, making the proposal process straightforward and efficient.

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2020 PDO Highlights
  • When reviewing a proposal, reviewers provide feedback in a variety of ways (e.g., via email, notes on a hardcopy, comments within the document). As a result, it's challenging and time consuming to combine all reviewer's comments into a useful summary. PDO is developing an automated web-based tool that simplifies this process. + LEARN MORE


Our Earth Science research stretches across four main areas: Air Quality, Radiation and Climate, Atmospheric Composition and Active Remote Sensing. In these areas, we are involved in a number of scientific initiatives, including advanced instrument development, field and space-borne experiments and data retrieval, analysis and archival. We also take significant pride in our ability to receive and share scientific data through the Atmospheric Science Data Center (ASDC). We further extend our research to the public through our efforts in Science Education.

Radiation and Climate
Understanding what’s changing our climate – and the implications for our planet.​
Air Quality
We observe pollutants around the world and provide scientific data used to study the impact on human health and agriculture.
Atmospheric Composition
We study the variations in and processes that affect aerosols, clouds, and trace gases, which influence climate, weather, and air quality.
Lidar Remote Sensing
We utilize Lidar technology on satellites and aircraft to learn more about our atmosphere, what’s in it, and how it’s changing.
+ View the Lidar Timeline

2020 Earth Science Highlights
  • New findings from a study led by NASA Langley's Dr. Liz Wiggins, of the Langley Aerosol Research Group (LARGE), were submitted to Geophysical Research Letters. The paper links satellite-measured fire intensity to changes in smoke plume trace gas and aerosol species (carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and black carbon). + LEARN MORE


Data products from satellite measurements, field experiments, and modeled data products create meaningful knowledge that inspires action by scientists, educators, decision makers and the public.

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2020 ASDC Highlights
  • The publicly-available ESDIS Earthdata Forum provides a single forum for science data users to present questions and receive answers from subject matter experts related to mission data managed across the DAACs. The forum includes NASA Langley’s Atmospheric Science Data Center (ASDC), six other Distributed Active Archive Centers (DAACs), more than thirty major projects, and nine data services. + LEARN MORE


NASA Langley contributes to NASA’s Applied Sciences Program, which helps people across the world use NASA data to solve big problems right here on Earth. The areas we support can help individuals and institutions improve our environment, food, water, health and safety.
Water Resources
Health & Air
Take a deep breath. It’s easy to overlook the importance of the air we breathe and its effects on our health — but it’s one thing our team is always focused on.
Food & Agriculture
The Food Security & Agriculture Program Area promotes the use of Earth observations to strengthen food security, support market stability and protect human livelihoods. Together with partners in the United States and around the world, we help bolster food security, improve agricultural resilience and reduce price volatility for vulnerable communities.
Capacity Building
We utilize Lidar technology on satellites and aircraft to learn more about our atmosphere, what’s in it, and how it’s changing.
+ View the Lidar Timeline
Understanding what’s changing our climate – and the implications for our planet.​
Ecological Forecasting
We observe pollutants around the world and provide scientific data used study the impact on human health and agriculture.
Renewable Energy

2020 Applied Sciences Highlights
  • A series of devastating bushfires taking place at the end of December 2019 and early January 2020, destroyed millions of acres of the Southeast Australian Forest in the states of New South Wales and Victoria. Smoke emitted by the fires had enormous impacts on air quality across major cities in Australia. NASA Langley coordinated NASA's Disaster program's response during this unprecedented event with support from Langley’s CALIPSO group and subject matter experts. We led discussions with Australian Partners from the Bureau of Meteorology to facilitate the use of NASA's satellite data in their air quality forecast system. + LEARN MORE


An interdisciplinary team of educators, scientists, technology experts and communication specialists collaborate with the education community to bring authentic Earth science practices and real-world data into the classroom. We create opportunities for Citizen scientists around the globe to participate in data collection and contribute to our understanding of the Earth system and global environment.

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2020 Science Education Highlights
  • "My NASA Data has been a tremendous resource as I have made the move to remote learning. It is so powerful to integrate real data into my lessons,” said Dr. Christy Wall, a sixth-grade teacher at McCurdy Charter School in Española, New Mexico, and a My NASA Data Advisory Board member. + LEARN MORE


Our atmospheric research also contributes to planetary science, heliophysics & astrophysics through the design, development, modeling and simulation of Entry, Descent and Landing (EDL) systems for Earth and planetary bodies, and also through our research on space weather and atmospheres of Terrestrial Type Exoplanets and planets.

2020 Beyond Earth Highlights
  • Since the early Viking missions, NASA Langley has led the agency for entry, descent and landing (EDL) simulations. Data gathered during the six-month flight allows the team of experts to adjust models to current conditions, replacing estimates in the process, and adjust the trajectory of the flight up until entering the Martian atmosphere.



NASA’s most prestigious honor awards are approved by the Administrator and presented to a number of carefully selected individuals and groups of individuals, both Government and non-Government, who have distinguished themselves by making outstanding contributions to the Agency’s mission.​

Individual Awards

Snorre Stamnes, Early Career Achievement Medal
Xiaomei Lu, Early Career Achievement Medal
Ericka M. Meacham, Exceptional Adminstrative Achievement Medal​
David J. Peterson, Exceptional Public Achievement Medal
Robert E. Fairbairn, Exceptional Public Service Medal
Marta A. Fenn, Exceptional Achievement Medal
Lamont R. Poole, Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal
Wendy F. Pennington, Outstanding Public Leadership Medal

Group Achievement Awards

Atmospheric Carbon and Transport — America (ACT-America)
My NASA Data
NASA/DLR Multidisciplinary Airborne Experiment (ND)
Proposal Development Office, Silver Achievement Medal

Lawrence and Reid Paper Award

Michael Pitts, Lamont Poole & Ryan Gonzalez for “Polar Stratospheric Cloud Climatology Based on CALIPSO Space-Borne Lidar Measurements from 2006 – 2017”


In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a massive teleworking experiment. Some essential work simply can’t be done from home, but the vast majority of us transitioned into home work spaces, which often included working alongside pets and family members. We worked to perfect our varying work-from-home formulas as we continued to collaborate virtually to improve our scientific knowledge and understanding.​
2020 Highlights
  • Some tables convert into an office for two.

Air Quality Highlights

At any given time, there is a fire burning somewhere on Earth. NASA Langley’s Dr. Amber Soja joined NASA experts to take a closer look at how fires are part of our changing planet during a NASA ScienceLive episode titled, “A World of Fires.” As the climate warms, it has directly affected the way fires occur, with longer fire seasons and more extreme fires that are harder to suppress. With a fleet of satellites orbiting Earth, NASA has a unique perspective to keep an eye on these fires, the impact they have on ecosystems, and how smoke degrades air quality for local communities and populations downwind from biomass burning.

Watch: NASA Science Live: A World of Fires

A joint campaign led by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Fire Influence on Regional to Global Environments and Air Quality (FIREX-AQ) is targeting broad questions about the chemical and physical properties of fire smoke, how it is measured and how it changes from the moment of combustion to its final fate hundreds or thousands of miles downwind. All of these have implications for public health. In 2019, NASA Langley contributed mission science leadership. The NASA Langley National Airborne Sounder Testbed - Interferometer (NAST-I) sensor was included as part of the aircraft payload for the ER-2 component. On the ground, the NASA Langley Aerosol Research Group Experiment (LARGE) operated a van full of instruments to catch the smoke as it settled.

Read: Tracking Smoke From Fires to Improve Air Quality Forecasting

Read: Through Smoke and Fire, NASA Searches for Answers

TEMPO (Tropospheric Emissions: Monitoring of Pollution), a NASA Earth science instrument that will dramatically advance our understanding of air quality over North America, secured a satellite host and ride into space with Maxar Technologies. In September, US, European and Korean team members for the planned new geostationary Earth observation satellites; TEMPO, the Geostationary Environment Monitoring Spectrometer (GEMS), Sentinel-4, Geostationary Carbon Cycle Observatory (GeoCARB) and the Geosynchronous Littoral Imaging and Monitoring Radiometer (GLIMR), met to foster the exchange of ideas on the upcoming Geostationary Air Quality Constellation. The TEMPO mission is a collaboration between NASA and the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory.

Read: Commercial Space Ride Secured for NASA’s New Air Pollution Sensor

Most of us don’t think twice about breathing. In fact, the average adult takes around 20,000 breaths per day. Understanding the air we breathe is essential to life on Earth. In 2019, NASA Langley’s Dr. Patrick Taylor and Dr. Jim Crawford were interviewed for a Health Journal article titled, “The Air Out There: Understanding Air Pollution.”

Read: The Air Out There: Understanding Air Pollution

For the past four years an international research team sponsored by NASA and the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has been studying the Asian Tropopause Aerosol Layer (ATAL), an area of enhanced aerosol particles that appears in the summertime. Using balloon-lofted instruments, the Balloon measurement campaign of the Asian Tropopause Aerosol Layer (BATAL) has collected data to better understand this seasonal atmospheric phenomenon and its potential impact on water resources, ozone, weather and climate. In 2019, the team collected data on trace gases and the properties of aerosols and ice crystals. NASA Langley Research Center scientists deployed to India to understand how pollution in Asia is transported into the stratosphere during the active summer monsoon, an annual phenomenon that brings humid weather and torrential rainfall to India and Southeast Asia.

Read: Using Balloons to Track Pollution into the Stratosphere

Demonstrating new technologies is vital to progressing our knowledge and understanding in key science areas. In 2019, NASA Langley's High Altitude Lidar Observatory (HALO) and the Doppler Aerosol WiNd lidar (DAWN) flew on the NASA DC-8 as a part of the Atmospheric Dynamics Mission-Aeolus (ADM-Aeolus) calibration and validation mission, demonstrating a new water vapor profiling capability. Upon completion of the DC-8 flights, HALO also demonstrated the rapid reconfigurability of the system by reconfiguring from water vapor DIAL to methane DIAL measurements within a matter of days to support NASA's Atmospheric Carbon and Transport - America (ACT-America) campaign.

Read: Illuminating Gases in The Sky: NASA Technology Pinpoints Potent Greenhouse Gases

DAWN: NASA Testing Airborne Lasers to Touch the Wind

Dr. Laura Judd (NASA LaRC/SSAI) was selected to join NASA’s Health and Air Quality (HAQ) Applied Sciences Team as an Associate Program Manager. Entering this position in November 2019, Laura tracks and manages a portfolio of Health and Air Quality projects focused on the implementation of air quality standards, policy, and regulations for economic and human welfare. Additionally, she contributes toward strategic planning efforts for advancing innovative and practical uses of NASA Earth science data and capabilities to enhance decision making processes by public and private organizations.