HANCOCK COUNTY, Miss. — Researchers at NASA's Stennis Space Center have signed a Space Act Agreement with noted archaeologist Ken Karsmizki to apply NASA remote sensing technology to the task of identifying and mapping sites along the trail of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. The expedition explored uncharted territory west of the Mississippi River for the U.S. government 200 years ago. NASA scientists at Stennis will work with Karsmizki to combine precision airborne and satellite imagery with detailed historic maps as well as Lewis and Clark journal entries to locate and preserve several sites along the trail of the Corps of Discovery, the name of the Lewis and Clark expedition team. The Montana State University TechLink Center and the NASA Earth Science Applications Directorate (ESAD) at Stennis helped facilitate this unique partnership.
Under the recently signed agreement, NASA researchers at Stennis will examine the utility of using new commercial sources of satellite remote sensing data to determine if information can be extracted to aid the archaeological and historical investigations associated with the Lewis and Clark expedition and the subsequent settlement and colonization of U.S. western territories.
"The images we are able to provide Dr. Karsmizki's team give a very high-resolution view of the Earth," said NASA's Marco Giardino, ESAD, Administrative Operations at Stennis. "Our scientists can create a 360-degree view of the landscape where Lewis and Clark traveled during their expedition. From that view, archaeologists can follow the trails Lewis and Clark pioneered as if they were flying over the actual landscape; in real time and in any direction or angle they choose."
By comparing the Lewis and Clark journal entry data and historical documents to the landscape, the team can more accurately estimate the most promising areas for their archeological dig.
"Conducting archaeology from space is an exciting concept," Karsmizki said. "Our efforts to uncover Lewis and Clark expedition outposts are enhanced using this technology. Many of Lewis and Clark's journal entries were written after long grueling days on the trail, and reporting inaccuracies about their actual locations did occur. So, finding a Lewis and Clark outpost, even with the excellent journal data they left behind, is like trying to find the proverbial needle in a haystack. By comparing data from the expedition archives to NASA imagery, we improve our probability of finding an outpost location dramatically."
Stennis Space Center, NASA's lead center for Earth Science applications, has been using remote sensing applications to aid in archaeological finds since 1974. Additionally, ESAD manages a demonstration program called the Scientific Data Purchase project. Initiated in 1997, this project involves the acquisition of remotely sensed data sets from commercial providers. This program helps the researchers by providing low-cost, high-quality remote sensing data, and it helps the commercial remote sensing industry by developing new markets for their products.
TechLink is located at Montana State University in Bozeman and funded by NASA and the Department of Defense to link companies in Montana and the surrounding region with federal laboratories for joint research and technology transfer.