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Energy, Resources, and Environmental Management


ISS Technology helps with inexpensive water quality testing

Monitoring the quality of water is a corollary issue to water availability. Methods of testing for contaminants in water supplies aboard the ISS that do not require incubators or other expensive instruments have been adapted for terrestrial use by the nonprofit organization mWater.

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Earth Observation Satellites Track Global Water Supply

The World Economic Forum named water supply a global risk in its 2013 annual report. Space assets are helping to mitigate and monitor this risk. In January 2013, the World Resource Institute released the Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas, a free tool that integrates satellite and ground-based hydrologic data with socioeconomic data.

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Landsat Data Wants to be Free

In 2008, the United States Geological Survey made Landsat data freely available, and the response greatly surpassed expectations. Image downloads from the satellite Earth observation and imaging program increased from an average of 38 per day to 5,700 per day, reaching 14 million downloads by November 2013.

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Earth Observation Imagery, Twitter, and Fighting Fires

In the immediate aftermath of a disaster, it can be difficult to make full use of satellite data because there is not enough time to fully analyze enough data to obtain practical information. New efforts at crowdsourcing analysis have provided vital information following the tornados in Moore, Oklahoma, and the fires in Black Forest, Colorado.

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Satellite Communications and Typhoons

Space provides a uniquely valuable vantage from which to track conditions and events on the Earth’s surface. The November 2013 typhoon that decimated the Philippines was tracked from space well before landfall, allowing some citizens to be evacuated and countless others to prepare for the storm.

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Better, More Efficient, Solar Power

Space technology has also inspired innovative energy solutions. NASA’s Glenn Research Center is supporting two spinoff projects by the GreenField Solar and Entech Solar companies to develop advanced solar arrays for both space-based and terrestrial applications.

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What’s Black, Brown, and White and Can be Seen From Space?

Earth observation satellites can facilitate wildlife surveys over large remote areas. A group of researchers from the University of Minnesota’s Polar Geospatial Center, the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and the Australian Antarctic Division applied advanced image processing techniques to high-resolution satellite images taken of emperor penguin colonies to estimate their total population.

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Satellite Earth Observation Data Predict Drought

Drought conditions are a contributing factor to wildfires, but they also have their own environmental impact. The MODIS instruments on NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites observed a severe impact on plant growth from the drought affecting large portions of the United States during the summer of 2012.

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Monitoring Wildfires from Afar

Some of the same satellite-based sensors that helped to track Superstorm Sandy and generate maps of the resulting blackouts were used to monitor the devastating wildfires that affected many parts of the United States a few months earlier. Between January and September 2012, a total of 48,258 fires burned 36,000 square kilometers (8.8 million acres).

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