Nasa is taking its quest for knowledge one step further, by trying to understand the weather, climate change and crop yields with a new observatory that will be attached to a spacecraft.

The Soil Moisture Active and Passive observatory, to be designed by Boeing for Nasa’s jet propulsion laboratory, will augment the capabilities of the weather and climate models by accurately mapping moisture conditions in the top layer of the Earth’s surface across the world.

The satellite data will also improve flood forecasts and drought monitoring by assisting in the measurement of carbon uptake and release in forested regions.

The Boeing subsystem will feature a spin mechanism that will enable the spacecraft to rotate smoothly and continuously as it scans the Earth’s surface, measuring soil moisture and temperature.

The laboratory plans to launch the observatory between 2010 and 2013.