The launch of a precipitation-measuring satellite next month kicks off a busy year for NASA's Earth-observation program. The space agency will launch five Earth-science missions in 2014, starting with the Feb. 27 liftoff of the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) Core Observatory from Japan's Tanegashima Space Center. The¬*GPM rain-mapping mission,¬*a joint effort between NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, will provide near real-time observations of rainfall and snowfall every three hours all over the world, improving scientists' understanding of climate change and the global water cycle, NASA officials said. "The water cycle, so familiar to all school-age young scientists, is one of the most interesting, dynamic, and important elements in our studies of the Earth‚Äôs weather and climate," NASA science chief John Grunsfeld said in a statement.{br}{br}View the Entire Article{br}