nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory is starting the new COral Reef Airborne Laboratory (CORAL) mission to study Australia's bleached and distressed Great Barrier Reef which, according to many studies, is on the verge of dying due to global warming and other human activities.

NASA's airborne mission will investigate the Great Barrier Reef for two months. Scientists from the University of Queensland in Brisbane and Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) will assist NASA's team in their investigation by carrying out complementary in-water validation activities.

Great Barrier Reef is the national treasure of Australia

Great Barrier Reef is the largest reef ecosystem in the world. It is located in the Coral Sea off Queensland and encompasses more than 900 islands and about 2,900 individual reefs. This 1,400-miles-long reef is spread in an area of about 133,000 square miles, and provides shelter to 400 different species of coral. Every year more than 2 million people visit this national treasure of Australia to experience the beauty and rich biodiversity of this region.

About CORAL mission

The CORAL mission will be of three years' duration. During this mission, NASA scientists will complete aerial surveys of the reef using advanced airborne imaging spectrometer technology developed by NASA's JPL.

The data collected through aerial surveys will be validated by in-water activities. Over the next year, the team will inspect six different sections of the Great Barrier Reef—from Torres Strait to Heron Island. The team will also survey reef systems in the Mariana Islands, main Hawaiian Islands, and Palau in next one year.

The mission will use Portable Remote Imaging Spectrometer (PRISM)—installed on a modified Tempus Solutions Gulfstream IV aircraft—to peer through the ocean's surface from an altitude of 8,500 meters and generate high-quality images of the ocean.

PRISM can capture pictures in 250 colours from ultraviolet to infrared. Such detailed scientific data would reveal the depth of the ocean, what is on the bottom, and what is in the water.

According to NASA, test flights of Gulfstream IV aircraft have already been completed over Kaneohe Bay in Hawaii. The aircraft will now begin survey flights over the Great Barrier Reef by the end of October.