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NASA craft to fly over Maryland Sunday to measure air quality

Likely visible over I-95 corridor between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.

By Michael Dresser, The Baltimore Sun

8:28 PM EDT, July 9, 2011

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If you see a large aircraft flying particularly low over the Interstate 95 corridor Sunday, don't panic. It will only be NASA, taking air quality samples.

The space agency said that as part of its DISCOVER-AQ air quality field campaign, it will send a P-3B research plane over Northeast Maryland and the main route between Baltimore and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

NASA said the 117-foot, four-engine turboprop plane will flay as low as 1,000 feet above the ground as it does its part in a mission to improve the ability of satellites to measure ground-level air quality from space. At various times, viewers may see it doing spiral ascents and descents over six air quality measurement stations in the corridor.

The work is being performed by NASA's Earth Science Division research together with the Maryland Department of the Environment, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and several universities. NSA plans about 14 of the flights this month when weather permits.

michael.dresser@baltsun.com