Outreach Achievements

of Earth  provided through MODIS Blue Marble project
This image of Earth was provided through the MODIS Blue Marble project.

Our solar system’s “Blue Marble” is getting special attention this year. NASA’s Earth and space science experts are utilizing innovative technologies, including remote sensing applications, to solve global problems in agriculture, public health and safety, the environment, and economic development. Major endeavors are underway using the Agency’s array of space-based satellites, including the Total Ozone Monitoring System and the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS), onboard the Terra satellite, the flagship in NASA’s Earth Observing System <http://terra.nasa.gov/>. The MODIS Blue Marble project has provided NASA with the most detailed images of the Earth to date <http://eob.gsfc.nasa.gov/Newsroom/BlueMarble/>.

The Agency’s Earth Science Enterprise and the Goddard Space Flight Center operate the Healthy Planet program <http://healthyplanet. gsfc.nasa.gov/index.html>. Medical researchers apply remote sensing data and technologies to better understand the links between human health and the environment, weather and climate, and to develop health-related surveillance and early warning system tools. One project concerns the high rate of childhood asthma in Baltimore, Maryland, a city in the top quintile of the disease. Other studies include malaria epidemics in Southeast Asia and the effect of African dust on asthma rates in the southern United States and the Caribbean islands.

The Women’s Outreach Initiative <http://nctn.hq.nasa.gov/innovation/Innovation56/wel2i56.htm>, a NASA Headquarters-sponsored program, is taking a very close look at health issues. This research is especially welcome because many of the troublesome symptoms experienced by astronauts in space are similar to conditions that affect women, such as osteoporosis. Women’s health is only one aspect of this outreach, called “There’s Space In My Life,” which also studies issues affecting men, families, the home, recreation, travel, and leisure.

Remote sensing is also central to Ag20/20, a unique industry/government partnership driven by the needs of crop producers. This partnership includes the Earth Science Enterprise, NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and commercial crop growers. Ag20/20 develops innovative information tools that increase production efficiency, reduce economic risks, and diminish environmental impacts associated with farming. Air- and space-based sensors are used to assist the farmer in key decisions, such as the timing and location of fertilizer, herbicide, and pesticide applications. Additional information is available at

unique Proteus aircraft
The unique Proteus aircraft served as a test bed for NASA-sponsored flight tests designed to validate collision-avoidance technologies proposed for uninhabited aircraft. The tests, flown over southern New Mexico in March 2002, used the Proteus as a surrogate uninhabited aerial vehicle.

Another public safety program is developing new sensor systems to study and predict hurricanes. The Convection and Moisture Experiment (CAMEX) involves NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and several universities. A new sensor, the dropsonde, measures atmospheric temperature, pressure, wind and humidity. The probe is dropped into a storm by parachute and transmits measurement data at any point around and within a hurricane. Scientists are now looking more closely at microscopic ice particles inside hurricanes to determine if they contribute to the storm’s strengthening or weakening. Visit the CAMEX website at <http://camex.msfc.nasa.gov/camex4/related.html>.

Public safety in aviation has generated three new NASA technologies, including Kennedy Space Center’s Personal Cabin Pressure Altitude Monitor and Warning System, now under commercial development. The pager-sized monitor warns of potentially dangerous or deteriorating aircraft cabin conditions through audio, vibratory, and visual alarms. It operates independently of other aircraft systems and monitors the pressure/time conditions when supplemental oxygen is needed. Originally designed to offer astronauts independent notification of depressurization, two major incidents spurred its development: the Mir/Progress collision in June 1997 and the aircraft accident involving professional golfer Payne Stewart in October 1999.

A second technology comes from an alliance of teams from NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center, the U.S. Navy, New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, and industry, supporting NASA’s Environmental Research Aircraft and Sensor Technology (ERAST) program. The goal is to provide safe operation of remotely-piloted aircraft in the National Airspace System; however, NASA sees an added benefit—commercial airliner safety. Aircraft manufacturers are now devising unpiloted aircraft capable of performing long-duration missions. Uninhabited aerial vehicles can be used to monitor wildfires, study environmental phenomena, relay cellular phone service, and keep an eye on petroleum pipelines and remote borders. For more information on this program, visit the ERAST website at <http://www.nasa.gov/centers/dryden/history/pastprojects/Erast/erast.html>.

A third technology, the Pilot Weather Advisor, is ready to enter the market as an accurate real-time, in-flight weather information service. ViGYAN, Inc., of Hampton, Virginia, developed the system under a NASA Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract. The system provides a continuous satellite-based broadcast of weather information. Both radar and airport condition information is graphically displayed on portable and panel-mounted displays. NASA’s Langley and Glenn Research Centers supported the development of this technology. For more information, visit Langley’s Aviation Weather Information program website at <http://awin.larc.nasa.gov/>.

Believing that commercial development of the space frontier is a great opportunity for our Nation, NASA is encouraging businesses to seize this opportunity through the Space Product Development Office, to ensure economic growth by delivering new advances, technological understanding, products, and jobs to the public. Product development is carried out primarily through Commercial Space Centers, including industry, government, and academia that conduct space-related research with commercial potential. More information is available at <http://spd.nasa.gov/>.

With its technologically advanced array of remote sensors, both air- and space-based, along with Space Shuttle and International Space Station resources and a strong technology transfer program, NASA continues to make our Blue Marble a better place to live by furthering our knowledge and solving the problems that affect all humankind.

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