A new partnership between NASA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) could result in updated maps of Yellowstone National Park, a better understanding of wildfires and improved management of California vineyards.
Under the partnership, NASA has selected 13 research proposals that will apply remote-sensing data -- images of the Earth taken by satellites -- to issues on the ground: forest mapping, soil studies, wildfires, range management, flood-plain drainage and crop monitoring.
"This new partnership between NASA and USDA demonstrates the diverse and wide-ranging applications of NASA's Earth Science research and its relevance to the American people," said Dr. Ghassem Asrar, Associate Administrator of Earth Sciences, NASA Headquarters, Washington, DC. "The Office of Earth Sciences is eager to form new partnerships with other government agencies, industry and public groups to expand America's use of our Earth Science research."
"We in the Department of Agriculture, especially the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service are very excited about partnering with NASA on these research projects," said I. Miley Gonzalez, Under Secretary for Research, Economics and Education. "We recognized that there were areas of research where images from space combined with ground surveys can greatly benefit our mapping efforts. We are looking forward to these pilot projects and hope they may lead to future partnerships between our organizations to explore land management and precision agriculture topics."
The award value for the 13 projects, which involve 11 universities, 11 private companies, 17 federal agency facilities and four state and local governments, is $7 million over three years. NASA selected the 13 projects from 180 proposals.
Researchers will use a variety of public and private spaceborne and aircraft-mounted Earth-observing instruments along with ground observations in their studies.
For forestry studies, NASA, the U.S. Forest Service and universities will use the recently launched Landsat 7 and other satellites to create valuable new maps of Yellowstone and other public lands.
Satellite imagery also can provide researchers at the Forest Service and universities with maps of vegetation in areas prone to wildfires -- firefighters can determine which types of plants are more likely to fuel wildfires and better predict what paths such fires may take.
Using airplanes and spacecraft that observe characteristics of grape vines invisible to the naked eye, researchers can "see" when vines are ill, allowing vintners to act before many vines are lost to disease. This research will allow America's billion-dollar wine industry to manage its vineyards more cost-effectively.
Additional information on the research projects, including the names of the universities, companies and federal facilities involved, can be found on the Internet at:
The partnership between the space program and USDA is part of NASA's Earth Science enterprise, a coordinated research program that studies the Earth's land, oceans, ice, atmosphere and life as a total science system. The initiative is part of an aggressive new strategy devoted to significantly increasing the application of NASA remote sensing data, information, science and technologies to societal needs, ensuring maximum return on taxpayer investments.
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