The main purpose of the NASA MAIA investigation is to study how different types of particulate matter air pollution affect our health. “Type” refers to the relative amounts of different components that make up the mixtures of airborne particles that we breathe.

NASA's three science questions are:

  • What types of airborne particles are dangerous over the short term (days to weeks)? Acute air pollution events have been linked to asthma flare-ups, hospital admissions and premature deaths.
  • What types of airborne particles are dangerous during pregnancy? Breathing air pollution is linked to problems like high blood pressure during pregnancy and low birth weight in infants.
  • What types of airborne particles are dangerous over the long term (multiple years)? Chronic exposure to air pollution causes heart disease and stroke. It is also linked to lung cancer and other respiratory illnesses. The impacts of long-term exposures are known to be much greater than those associated with short-term exposure.

NASA also has two secondary objectives:

  • To collect measurements of Earth over areas that are interesting to scientists studying air quality and climate. These include observations of cities with high pollution levels and major events that impact air quality, including wildfires and erupting volcanoes.
  • To demonstrate MAIA’s new technology for future missions. For more, see the MAIA instrument.

MAIA is a partnership between NASA and the Italian Space Agency (Agenzia Spaziale Italiana or ASI):

  • A MAIA ASI Science Team will conduct scientific investigations that complement those performed by the NASA team. To support ASI research goals, three MAIA target areas have been established in Italy. These cover a number of cities such as Rome, Bologna, Milan, Turin, Bari, and Taranto.
  • ASI will establish and maintain a version of the MAIA data archive in Italy, and distribute data products for users in Europe.