NASA. Instantly our minds forge images of astronauts in white space suits, gigantic space shuttles and the great words of Neil Armstrong - “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
And while Hollywood hits might have us believing every NASA mission is about finding extraterrestrial life or spaceships in peril - the truth is NASA’s missions collect data that is much more than aliens.
Keynote speaker at CeBIT Australia 2017, NASA scientist Dennis Andrucyk, explored the key science themes NASA and the greater science community aim to research through their work. These are; safeguarding and improving life on earth, searching for life elsewhere, and expanding our knowledge. In today’s keynote we’ll explore his thoughts in Safeguarding and improving life on earth. Ensure you’re subscribed to the CeBIT newsletter to learn more about what Andrucyk said in up-coming editions.
Here is a snapshot into how the data from these missions is changing our lives, for the better.
Satellite technology has advanced so much we can now see high-resolution images of earth from 22,300 miles away. Compared to just a few years ago when we could only take images of the same quality from much closer to the earth - 500 miles away.
Technology also enables us to map lightening and storms in more detail than was possible before.
And while these images provide valuable insight individually, Mr Andrucyk says the real benefit to the broader community comes when the data streams are compiled to bring together a whole picture that everyone can understand and use for the good of humanity.
For example, the image below shows the combined data sets captured during Hurricane Matthew over 11 days. This kind of data essentially shows us a CAT scan of the hurricane. According to Andrucyk, the insights saved lives and businesses - authorities were able to predict when the hurricane would reach land and give ample warning to those in its path.
Consolidating data also enables emergency responders, as well as cleanup crews, to analyse the damage after a catastrophic event and create a plan going forward. Below we see a detailed burn area map that can be used by local councils to plan roads that need to be re-built, or utility companies that may need to fix power lines or water services.
We’re able to capture this data because technology is evolving. While hurricane forecast tracking accuracy has improved since 1990, there has been little improvement in intensity forecast accuracy. That’s where CYGNSS comes in. Essentially it’s eight satellites in one and, it's one of the spacecrafts used to capture this critical data. While expensive to produce, Andrucyk stressed the results CYGNSS has helped achieved far outweighs its cost.
Despite technology advancing at a fast pace, Andrucyk says NASA and the science community are open to more innovative ideas on how to better safeguard and enhance life on earth.