Popular Science selects aerospace project as “Best of What’s New” in aviation and space

AUSTIN, Texas—Identical twin satellites launched to map Earth’s gravity field under the direction of Dr. Byron Tapley, professor of aerospace engineering, is showcased in the Nov. 12 “Best of What’s New” issue of Popular Science.

NASA’s GRACE I and GRACE II, which have been orbiting 310 miles above the earth since March 17, are among 10 entries chosen in the “Aviation and Space” category. The pair, traveling 137 miles apart, is measuring minute gravitational variations that pull them together or push them away from each other.

“The goal,” Tapley said, “is to create an accurate map of Earth’s gravitational field so scientists can track changes in Earth’s mass as a part of the seasonal exchange between the atmosphere, oceans and land; and the effects of forces that drive tectonic plates and oceanic circulation.”

Cited along with GRACE—under the header “best of what’s orbiting”—were NASA’s ocean-monitoring Aqua satellite and Envisat, a similar environmental satellite sponsored by the European Space Agency. “They’re quite simply the most advanced Earth-observing instruments ever,” the editorial staff said.

Each year Popular Science magazine honors the world's most outstanding breakthrough products and technologies in its December “Best of What’s New” issue. The honors result from reviews conducted by the magazine throughout the year, when it culls a select few items from thousands of new products and innovations to feature in its monthly What's New department. A total of 100 winners in 10 categories (Auto Technology, Aviation and Space, Cars, Computers, Electronics, General Technology, Home Technology, Medical Technology, Photography and Recreation), appear in the annual “Best of What’s New” issue. The editors select award winners they feel represent a significant step forward in their category.

For more information contact: Becky Rische, College of Engineering, 512-471-7272 or 512-422-9918; or Margaret Baugio, 512-471-6922.