NASA’s Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2) successfully launched from California at 9:02 a.m. EDT Saturday, embarking on its mission to measure the ice of Earth’s frozen reaches with unprecedented accuracy.

As we count down to launch, we're counting up 10 things to know about ICESat-2

NASA will soon launch the most advanced laser instrument of its kind, beginning a mission to measure changes in the heights of Earth’s polar ice.

Ice, space lasers, penguins and a workhorse rocket’s last liftoff – it’s the stuff great tweets are made of.

Members of the AfriSAR team, Sassan Saatchi (left) from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Laura Duncanson (right) from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center take measurements of trees in the rainforest in the Mondah National Park, Gabon. CREDIT: NASA/Carla Thomas.

We breathe in the oxygen they produce, clamber up their branches, pick their delicious fruits and sit in their shade – and now it’s time for trees to have the spotlight!

Before beaming 300 miles to Earth’s surface, bouncing off the ground and travelling another 300 miles back into space, ICESat-2's laser photons first have to complete a 7½-foot obstacle course.

The 2016 melt season in the Arctic Ocean started with a bang, with a record low maximum extent in March and relatively rapid ice loss through May - before slowing down in June.

Close enough doesn’t cut it in a NASA Goddard’s Space Flight Center cleanroom, where engineers are building an elevation-measuring instrument to fly on ICESat-2

The Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite-2, or ICESat-2, will measure the height of a changing Earth – one laser pulse at a time, 10,000 laser pulses a second.

In August 2015, a NASA instrument flew over Greenland and the Arctic ocean to study how green laser light interacts with snow and ice.

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