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Dynamic Earth environments; 35 years of earth science from low-Earth orbit



Dynamic Earth environments; 35 years of earth science from low-Earth orbit



Abstracts with Programs - Geological Society of America 31(7): 187



The U. S. Space Program has supported Earth photography by astronauts from spacecraft since the early 1960s, logging almost 2000 days in space by 288 astronauts. Over the years, our program of managing the imagery of the Earth's surface by astronaut crews has grown substantially: the office maintains a large database containing both images and the catalog information on nearly 400,000 images of Earth, providing global coverage and spanning 35 years. Most of these data (images and metadata) can be accessed by scientists and educators around the world through the NASA-Johnson Space Center Office of Earth Sciences database at http://eol.jsc.nasa.gov. In addition, users now have access to the global information networks and database technologies to analyze and interpret single images, historical images or large data sets of images of Earth, expanding the potential for application of the image database to real-world problems and educational curricula. These data can be tapped to a) piece together time series like changes in landuse, regional hydrology networks or coastlines; b) examine events on different time scales (from hours to decades); and c) provide unifying data for interdisciplinary Earth science studies.Furthermore, our scientific perspective acquired through the analysis of 35 years of astronaut photography of Earth allows us to identify some of the truly unusual or significant events on the Earth's surface, like the largest smoke palls or rapid changes in regional water supplies. Within this context, new astronaut observations are improving our understanding of the sizes and frequencies of global processes like floods, droughts, human landuse, dust storms, biomass burning, smog production, plankton blooms, and more. Continuous Earth observations by crew members and new Earth Science payload opportunities on the International Space Station (ISS) will enhance the existing image database and our knowledge of processes and changes on the Earth's surface.

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