DC Agle Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
Dwayne Brown / JoAnna Wendel NASA Headquarters, Washington
One of the most successful and enduring feats of interplanetary exploration, NASA’s Opportunity rover mission is at an end after almost 15 years exploring the surface of Mars and helping lay the groundwork for NASA’s return to the Red Planet.
The Opportunity rover stopped communicating with Earth when a severe Mars-wide dust storm blanketed its location in June 2018. After more than a thousand commands to restore contact, engineers in the Space Flight Operations Facility at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) made their last attempt to revive Opportunity Tuesday, to no avail. The solar-powered rover’s final communication was received June 10.
NASA and its partners are gathering the best available science and information on the April 25, 2015, magnitude 7.8 earthquake in Nepal, referred to as the Gorkha earthquake, to assist in relief and humanitarian operations. Organizations using these NASA data products and analyses include the U.S. Geological Survey, United States Agency for International Development (USAID)/Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance, World Bank, American Red Cross, and the United Nations Children’s Fund.
NASA and its collaborators are pulling optical and radar satellite data from international and domestic partners and compiling them into a variety of products. The products include “vulnerability maps,” used to determine risks that may be present; and “damage proxy maps,” used to determine the type and extent of existing damage. Such products can be used to better direct response efforts.
The satellite data will be used to compile maps of ground surface deformation and to create risk models. NASA and its partners are also contributing to assessments of damage to infrastructure. They are tracking remote areas that may be a challenge for relief workers to reach, as well as areas that could be at risk for landslides, river damming, floods and avalanches. The data will contribute to ongoing investigations of our restless Earth and its impacts on society.
NASA is helping get satellite data into the hands of government officials in Nepal where Internet bandwidth is limited. The joint NASA-USAID SERVIR project is supporting disaster response mapping efforts through the SERVIR-Himalaya office at the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development in Kathmandu. SERVIR staff at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Alabama, are coordinating image tasking, processing, compression, and distribution efforts with colleagues from Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
NASA technology that can locate people trapped beneath collapsed buildings is being deployed to Nepal. A remote-sensing radar technology called FINDER (Finding Individuals for Disaster and Emergency Response), developed by JPL in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate, can locate individuals buried as deep as 30 feet (9.1 meters) in crushed materials, hidden behind 20 feet (6 meters) of solid concrete, and from a distance of 100 feet (30.5 meters) in open spaces. This technology, licensed by the private entity R4 Incorporated of Edgewood, Maryland, has been taken to Nepal to assist with recovery efforts.
NASA uses the vantage point of space to increase our understanding of our home planet, improve lives and safeguard our future. NASA develops new ways to observe and study Earth’s interconnected natural systems with long-term data records. The agency freely shares this unique knowledge and works with institutions around the world to gain new in-sights into how our planet is changing.
Data and images will be released as they become available at:
NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) have started work on Landsat 9, planned to launch in 2023, which will extend the Earth-observing program’s record of land images to half a century.
The Landsat program has provided accurate measurements of Earth’s land cover since 1972. With data from Landsat satellites, ecologists have tracked deforestation in South America, water managers have monitored irrigation of farmland in the American West, and researchers have watched the growth of cities worldwide. With the help of the program’s open archive, firefighters have assessed the severity of wildfires and scientists have mapped the retreat of mountain glaciers.
The President’s fiscal year 2016 budget calls for initiation of a Landsat 9 spacecraft as an upgraded rebuild of Landsat 8, as well as development of a low-cost thermal infrared (TIR) free-flying satellite for launch in 2019 to reduce the risk of a data gap in this important measurement. The TIR free flyer will ensure data continuity by flying in formation with Landsat 8. The budget also calls for the exploration of technology and systems innovations to provide more cost effective and advanced capabilities in future land-imaging missions beyond Landsat 9, such as finding ways to miniaturize instruments to be launched on smaller, less expensive satellites.
“Moving out on Landsat 9 is a high priority for NASA and USGS as part of a sustainable land imaging program that will serve the nation into the future as the current Landsat program has done for decades,” said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for science at NASA Headquarters, Washington. “Continuing the critical observations made by the Landsat satellites is important now and their value will only grow in the future, given the long term environmental changes we are seeing on planet Earth.”
Because an important part of the land imaging program is to provide consistent long-term observations, this mission will largely replicate its predecessor Landsat 8. The mission will carry two instruments, one that captures views of the planet in visible, near infrared and shortwave-infrared light, and another that measures the thermal infrared radiation, or heat, of Earth’s surfaces. These instruments have sensors with moderate resolution and the ability to detect more variation in intensity than the first seven satellites in the Landsat program.
The Landsat 9 mission is a partnership between NASA and the USGS. NASA will build, launch, perform the initial check-out and commissioning of the satellite; USGS will operate Landsat 9 and process, archive, and freely distribute the mission’s data.
“Landsat is a remarkably successful partnership,” said Sarah Ryker, USGS deputy associate director for climate and land use change, Reston, Virginia. “Last year the White House found that GPS, weather satellites, and Landsat are the three most critical types of Earth-orbiting assets for civil applications, because they’re used by many economic sectors and fields of research. Having Landsat 9 in progress, and a long-term commitment to sustainable land imaging, is great for natural resource science and for data-driven industries such as precision agriculture and insurance.”
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, will lead development of the Landsat 9 flight segment. Goddard will also build the Thermal Infrared Sensor (TIRS), which will be similar to the TIRS that the center built for Landsat 8. The new improved TIRS will have a five-year design lifetime, compared to the three-year design lifetime of the sensor on Landsat 8.
“This is good news for Goddard, and it’s great news for the Landsat community to get the next mission going,” said Del Jenstrom, the Landsat 9 project manager at NASA Goddard. “It will provide data consistent with, or better than, Landsat 8.”
With decades of observations, scientists can tease out subtle changes in ecosystems, the effects of climate change on permafrost, changes in farming technologies, and many other activities that alter the landscape.
“With a launch in 2023, Landsat 9 would propel the program past 50 years of collecting global land cover data,” said Jeffrey Masek, Landsat 9 Project Scientist at Goddard. “That’s the hallmark of Landsat: the longer the satellites view the Earth, the more phenomena you can observe and understand. We see changing areas of irrigated agriculture worldwide, systemic conversion of forest to pasture – activities where either human pressures or natural environmental pressures are causing the shifts in land use over decades.”
“We have recognized for the first time that we’re not just going to do one more, then stop, but that Landsat is actually a long-term monitoring activity, like the weather satellites, that should go on in perpetuity,” Masek said.
NASA uses the vantage point of space to increase our understanding of our home planet, improve lives, and safeguard our future. NASA develops new ways to observe and study Earth’s interconnected natural systems with long-term data records. The agency freely shares this unique knowledge and works with institutions around the world to gain new insights into how our planet is changing.