The U.S. and France have successfully launched a satellite 20 years in the making that has the capability to map all of Earth's oceans, lakes, and rivers.
The SWOT project, which is short for Surface Water and Ocean Topography, was sent to orbit on Friday via a SpaceX rocket. The launch comes at a critical time as droughts, coastal flooding, and erosion threaten coastlines, according to NASA.
The satellite, which is about the size of an SUV, will leapfrog ahead of the capabilities of those already in orbit that cannot assess currents and eddies in bodies of water. It will also be able to find the location and speed of rising seas and which coastlines are shifting.
"It is a pivotal moment, and I'm very excited about it," Nadya Vinogradova-Shiffer, NASA program manager, told the Associated Press. "We're going to see Earth's water like we've never seen before."
NASA and the French Space Agency have split the cost of the project, which was upwards of $1.2 billion. Britain and Canada also contributed financially.