Aeronautics and Space Report of the President FY 1995 Activities


Studies of the Planet Earth

Terrestrial Studies and Applications

During FY 1995, NASA continued to demonstrate new techniques for observing the environment from space. The Space Radar Laboratory, which flew on the Space Shuttle Endeavour for the second time in October 1994 was the most technologically advanced civilian Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) ever flown in space. This was an international project, with the X-band SAR fabricated by Germany and Italy and the Shuttle Imaging Radar-C produced by the United States. Scientists expressed excitement about SAR's ability to measure and monitor changes on the Earth's surface, such as biomass, soil moisture, and the free water content of snow. Using interferometry, SAR scientists demonstrated that they could measure the topographic surface of Earth and detect changes as small as a few centimeters.

During the winter of 1994-95, NASA and the Canadian government continued to conduct a campaign known as the Boreal Ecosystem-Atmosphere Study— a large-scale, ground-based, and remote-sensing investigation of how forests and the atmosphere exchange energy, heat, water, carbon dioxide, and other trace gases. Observations seem to confirm that although much of the boreal ecosystem consists of wetlands, lakes, and water-logged peat beds, on which most of the forest grows, the atmosphere above the forests is extremely dry—in short, the boreal forest functions like a green desert. These data continue to correct previous weather models that overpredicted atmospheric moisture.

The Landsat series of spacecraft have provided regular observations of the Earth's surface for two decades, monitoring renewable and nonrenewable resources. Landsat data applications support programs such as global change research, coastal zone monitoring, timber management, regional planning, and environmental monitoring. More specifically, data from the Landsat-5 satellite continued to prove valuable in FY 1995 in numerous practical applications, including forest management; wheat yield, fisheries, and water resource development; earthquake and flood damage assessments; ecological, glaciological, hydrologic, and agricultural research; and geological explorations. Landsat's commercial potential was demonstrated by efforts to fight louse infestation damage to California grape vineyards; to design a complex geographic data base to access fire hazard assessment, pollution runoff analysis, and power demand prediction in the San Francisco Bay area; to identify specific crop types and to assess crop health and potential yield in Finney County, Kansas; to identify areas of rapid Chesapeake marsh loss where remediation efforts may have effect; and to help timber companies design and implement long-range sustainable forest management.

NASA also has completed significant steps in the development of the next Landsat spacecraft, Landsat-7. NASA and NOAA are to develop the ground system, which NOAA will operate. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) will continue to be responsible for maintaining the Government's archive of Landsat and other land-related remote-sensing data. As of the end of FY 1995, Landsat-7 was planned for launch in mid-1998.

NASA also utilized airborne tools to alleviate specific daily terrestrial problems, such as forest fires. In July 1995, for example, a NASA research aircraft played a critical role in fighting a major fire that threatened life and property in the Scottsdale and Fountain Hills areas of Arizona. The plane, a C-130B carrying Earth-observing instruments, was diverted to the Scottsdale area to assist with combating the fire. The instruments provided critical, real-time information that was invaluable for deploying limited resources more accurately and safely to protect threatened life and property.

All of these efforts, as well as others of a more subtle nature, to observe the atmosphere and oceans, comprise NASA's Mission to Planet Earth (MTPE). MTPE provides the global perspective that is available only from space to better understand how the parts of the Earth's environment—air, water, and land— interact and make life possible. Phase 1 missions include a number of free-flying satellites for the study of specific global changes. MTPE's centerpiece is the Earth Observing System (EOS), a series of advanced interdisciplinary spacecraft that, as of the end of the fiscal year, were scheduled to be launched beginning in 1998. MTPE is NASA's contribution to the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), an interagency research and observation effort designed to address the most fundamental questions regarding changes in global climate and environmental processes. MTPE is also an integral part of the International Earth Observing System (IEOS), in which satellites and instruments from the United States, Europe, Japan, and Canada are being closely coordinated to provide complementary data on various aspects of the Earth's environment.

During the spring and summer of 1995, NASA focused on a series of important reshaping exercises for MTPE and EOS, designed to chart the long-term implementation planning for the program. This process culminated in September 1995 with a strong scientific endorsement of EOS by the National Academy of Sciences' Board on Sustainable Development. That board concluded that MTPE should proceed with near-term EOS missions "without delay" and urged MTPE to continue infusing new cost-saving science and technology into later elements of the program. The board also recommended that NASA transfer responsibility for information product generation, publication, and user services to a federation of partners selected through an open competitive process. With the participation of the external research community, NASA began a study of the best approaches to implement these recommendations.

The EOS Data and Information System (EOSDIS), the MTPE data system, is a major component of the Global Change Data and Information System. The first EOSDIS Potential User Conference, held in June 1995, identified four user categories for data services: routine information on product inquiries, specific project users, discovery users, and indirect users. A key conclusion of the conference report was that although EOSDIS was designed to support the global change research community, EOSDIS potentially can support the needs of a broader range of users.

Development continued in FY 1995 on EOSDIS Version 0, the prototype processing, archive, catalog, and distribution system used by each Distributed Active Archive Center (DAAC) to provide a full suite of data and information services to the science community. Over a 3-month sample period in 1995, the DAAC's served an average of 12,900 users per month, who accounted for an average of 180,000 accesses to Version 0 services, including an average of 7,200 data requests.

The USGS Earth Resources Observation System (EROS) DAAC component of the EOSDIS distributed 3.7 terabytes of data in FY 1995. These data consisted principally of Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) 1-kilometer global and North America 10-day composites, the digital chart of the world, and digital elevation models of Japan, North America, and Africa. The EROS DAAC also distributed some Shuttle Imaging Radar-C data.

The Pathfinder program in FY 1995 focused on the further generation of data products for the entire time period of each data set, building on the initial benchmark period of April 1987 to November 1988. Pathfinder is a program developed by NASA and NOAA that focuses on processing, reprocessing, maintaining, archiving, and distributing existing Earth science and global environmental change data sets to make them more readily available and useful to researchers. Also in FY 1995, the Pathfinder program was institutionalized as a NASA program through the selection of 23 new peer-reviewed projects, solicited through a NASA Research Announcement.

Since 1992, the USGS has conducted the Global Land 1-kilometer AVHRR Pathfinder project in cooperation with NASA, NOAA, the European Space Agency, and an international network of 31 AVHRR data-reception facilities. More than 60,000 daily AVHRR observations have been collected by the network and archived at the USGS EROS Data Center's EOSDIS DAAC. A year-long time-exposed series of cloud-free vegetation index composites has been produced for the Western Hemisphere, Africa, and Europe; these data have been used to develop a baseline global land cover data set.

The USGS accelerated data production for EPA's North American Landscape Characterization project to complete production of triplicate data sets covering the conterminous United States and Mexico. A triplicate consists of three dates of Landsat Multispectral Scanner data from the 1970's, 1980's, and 1990's and a georegistered digital elevation model. USGS personnel prepared triplicate data sets for the NASA-funded Humid Tropical Forest Inventory project, which is mapping deforestation rates in the Amazon Basin, Africa, and Southeast Asia. These data can be obtained at no charge to the user from the EROS Data Center's DAAC through a World Wide Web home page for the Landsat Pathfinder program.

In April 1995, Project Earthlink, an interagency environmental education program, sought to improve the public's understanding of global environmental change through science fairs, the development of an educator's resource guide, video conferences, and workshops. Out of this effort, NASA took the lead of an interagency, long-term initiative to encourage the incorporation of Earth system science concepts into State and local education systems. In August, State teams of education policymakers and science experts gathered in regional forums, in which each State presented unique action plans for using existing resources to overcome obstacles that prevent the incorporation of Earth system science into the education system. NOAA, NASA, NSF, and EPA all made significant contributions to the Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) program, an interagency initiative that became operational this year. More than 1,500 teachers have been trained from across the country, and students from around the world are making daily measurements and receiving visual results of their compiled data.

Climate Change Data and Detection, a new program element of the NOAA Climate and Global Change program, emerged as a full-scale information management effort in FY 1995. It focused on enhancing five broad areas— data management support for program-specific activities, data archeology and reference data set development for a broad user community, better access to climate change data sets, detection and documentation of the quantitative character of observed climate changes and variations, and attribution of observed climate changes and variations to specific causes. The scientific advisory panel to NOAA's Climate and Global Change program added the last two areas to the overall program to help provide scientific focus for data management activities. In FY 1995, this program element supported governmental and academic researchers on 37 separate projects.

NOAA's National Geophysical Data Center (NGDC) continued to process all the scientific data recorded by Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) satellites. During the past fiscal year, the volume of DMSP data increased from 2 to more than 5 gigabytes per day. Even so, the NGDC continued to prepare significant numbers of research-quality data sets for distribution to the user community and for the DMSP national archives.

The NGDC recently expanded its online services to allow users to conduct interdisciplinary data analysis, in addition to receiving information about satellite data. These services include a telephone dial-in bulletin board and Internet access through anonymous file transfer protocol, Gopher, and World Wide Web pages. During FY 1995, Internet access to the NGDC increased fourfold over FY 1994, with more than 100,000 megabytes of data downloaded by 263,000 users in FY 1995.

Many of the NGDC's FY 1995 users were from academia and were conducting research in meteorology, space physics, oceanography, and solid Earth geophysics. NGDC scientists undertook projects to investigate the amount of carbon emissions that result from fires of both anthropogenic and natural sources, as seen in global DMSP imagery. Preliminary results formed the basis for extended U.S.-Russian cooperation through the joint Environmental Working Group cochaired by NOAA.

In the area of hazardous waste, EPA used aerial photography to develop site-characterization data during remedial investigation and feasibility studies conducted under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). EPA completed more than 100 aerial photographic surveys of hazardous waste sites under the CERCLA and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) programs. Satellite imagery played an important role in helping scientists develop detailed site characterizations.

EPA's Environmental Photographic Interpretation Center worked with the Army Corps of Engineers to analyze aerial photographs and to develop spill contingency plans for emergency crews handling oil and other hazardous materials in U.S. waterways. The center also used remote sensing to identify hazardous spills and other potential problems that might occur as a result of severe flooding or other natural disasters.

In FY 1995, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) used remote-sensing data to construct area frames for statistical sampling in estimating planted crop area, to create crop-specific land-cover data layers for geographic information systems (GIS), and to assess crop conditions. Products from the first two areas were based on high-resolution digital satellite data, such as the Landsat-5 Thematic Mapper (TM) and the Satellite Pour l'Observation de la Terre (SPOT) (satellite for the observation of the Earth) Multispectral Scanner (MSS) data, while crop condition assessment utilized low-resolution data from the NOAA-14 satellite.

For the first time, in FY 1995, researchers employed samples from the New York and South Carolina area frames for their studies. For area frame construction, they combined digital Landsat and SPOT data with USGS digital line graph data, enabling the user to assign each piece of land (in a State) to a category based on the percentage cultivated or used in other ways. NASS also tested the feasibility of using data from the Indian Remote Sensing (IRS-1B) satellite for area frame construction in the event of a failure to Landsat-5. This test used 1994 Linear Imaging Self-Scanning Sensor (LISS-II) data over a portion of western Kansas and found the LISS data to be an acceptable but not preferable replacement for the Landsat-5 TM.

The 1995 delta remote-sensing project in Arkansas focused on the analysis of multitemporal SPOT MSS data from the 1994 crop season and produced crop-specific digital data layers and crop acreage estimates for rice, cotton, and soybeans. This was to be the first NASS large-area and large-volume test of SPOT data. However, ground controllers redirected SPOT satellite observations away from Arkansas during the critical summer overpasses, and only a small area of summer scenes was acquired. August (single-date) Landsat-5 TM data purchased to replace the lost scenes outperformed the available multitemporal SPOT data for crop acreage classification. Another related study compared single-date LISS-II data from the IRS-1B satellite to both the SPOT MSS and TM in a small subset of the Arkansas area; TM again was best for crop acreage, with IRS LISS better than SPOT MSS. During the summer, Landsat TM and SPOT data were acquired over Arkansas to continue this project for the 1995 crop season.

NASS scientists investigated the possibility of using the new NOAA-14 AVHRR sensor by comparing biweekly vegetative index map products for the 1995 crop season to previous seasons' NOAA-11 data. Crop condition assessment map products, based on the recalibrated data, were distributed to NASS offices and USDA policymakers for the August and September Agriculture Statistics Board's reviews. In related yield research, four data sets of Landsat-5 TM imagery were obtained for a spring wheat area on the border of North and South Dakota. The combined dates were used to create a crop-specific classification. Landsat-5 TM vegetative indices will be calculated for spring wheat areas only and compared via the yield models to AVHRR indices, based on multiple-cover types.

Scientists at the Beltsville, MD, Remote Sensing Research Laboratory and other USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) locations conducted research and developed applications for "precision agriculture." This required implementing an equipment and information system using tools such as remote sensing, GIS, and GPS instruments, which allow farmers to make field-specific decisions for economic and environmental control. A widening array of equipment has been developed to use GPS and machine-adapted computer mapping to differentially apply chemicals, fertilizers, and various seeding rates and densities.

The incentives to adjust management, at a fine grid level within a production field, are improving production efficiency, protecting the long-term production environment, or both. Examples of some of the remote-sensing techniques that have been developed by ARS scientists include (1) designing a tractor-mounted sensor to provide on-the-go soil testing for nitrogen fertilizer, (2) developing a near-infrared-reflectance sensor to measure soil organic matter and moisture important to the utilization of fertilizer and soil applied herbicides, and (3) using electromagnetic induction sensing to measure the topsoil depth on claypans, allowing for adjustments to be made in fertilizer application for effective crop use.

A variety of remotely sensed means was used to identify plant stress and soil conditions and, in general, relate vegetation to other measured variables, including gridded yield data, at the time of harvest. Geostatistical methods were employed not only to quantify the variability found within crop fields but also to develop strategies for sampling plant data to adequately represent and characterize field measurements.

The ARS facility in Weslaco, TX, completed a study of saltcedar (Tamarix chinensis) infestations in the southwestern United States using spatial information technologies such as airborne video data, GPS, and GIS. The study focused on areas along the Colorado River in Arizona and the Rio Grande and Pecos Rivers in Texas. In November 1994, saltcedar infestations were distinguished readily on conventional color video imagery when foliage turned a yellow-orange to orange-brown color prior to leaf drop. The integration of GPS with video imagery permitted latitude-longitude coordinates of saltcedar infestations to be recorded on each image. These coordinates were entered into a GIS to map saltcedar populations along the three river systems.

Weslaco scientists also produced a vegetation community map of the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, near Alamo, TX, in cooperation with refuge personnel. The baseline information provided on the map assists refuge managers in monitoring changes and determining the habitat requirements of various wildlife species, such as the endangered ocelot.

In Phoenix, AZ, ARS Water Conservation Laboratory (WCL) scientists completed the multispectral airborne demonstration, a 6-month experiment at the Maricopa Agricultural Center. By acquiring biweekly airborne images of an 800-hectare farm in Arizona, along with intensive ground-based measurements, WCL scientists investigated the real-time use of remote sensing for farm management. These biweekly measurements were combined with a crop simulation model and will be used to develop the techniques necessary to provide daily crop and soil information to the farm manager for making management decisions.

WCL scientists collaborated with engineers at the Sandia National Laboratory in Albuquerque, New Mexico, to explore agricultural applications of airborne sensors initially developed for military use. Based on optical and microwave images provided by Sandia engineers, WCL scientists found that this combination of spectral data could provide valuable information about both crop growth and soil moisture.

In addition, WCL scientists developed a water deficit index to assess the water status of a crop and help determine water needs. This is important, particularly for producers located in arid and semi-arid areas of the world who are almost totally dependent on irrigation. The index represents a breakthrough in irrigation scheduling because agronomists can apply it to both sparse and dense vegetation, and it requires few input parameters other than remotely-sensed data.

Also in FY 1995, WCL scientists took the first steps toward optimizing the use of multiple sensors on multiple dates for evaluating of crop conditions and water loss from agricultural areas. Working to enhance the usefulness of such imagery, WCL scientists developed an operational method of normalizing the effects of viewing angle on spectral response and then inverted this process to use bidirectional measurements as a source of information about crop stress and structure.

Scientists at the ARS Hydrology Laboratory in Beltsville, MD, developed improved snowpack microwave remote-sensing algorithms through the use of electron microscope imaging of snow crystal size, shape, and structures. At the Jornada Experimental Range in New Mexico, scientists began multilevel, multisensor remote-sensing work directed at measuring evaporative fluxes and characterizing areal vegetation changes in arid rangelands.

New remote-sensing procedures, developed by ARS at Weslaco for determining the effects of soil salinity on sugarcane and cotton, were applied in 1994 as a pilot test to the 20,000 hectares of irrigated wheat in the El Carrizo Irrigation District near Los Mochis. Both salinity and yield maps were produced that correlated well with crop performance. Users there were able to apply the procedures in 1995 to the 200,000-hectare Yaqui Irrigation District that surrounds Ciudad Obregon.

The USDA Forest Service, under an agreement with the USGS National Mapping Division, assumed responsibility for revisions to maps covering National Forest System lands. Aerial photography and satellite imagery have provided the primary sources of data for maintaining more than 10,000 topographic quadrangle maps and associated derived map products. These maps are essential for Forest Service resource management activities and are also available for sale to the general public.

In FY 1995, remote-sensing data supported a wide variety of ecosystem management activities, including wildfire detection and suppression, vegetation classification, resource change detection, land management planning, damage assessment following natural disasters, the identification of critical wildlife habitat, support to law enforcement, and inventory programs. The Forest Service used a wide variety of remote-sensing platforms, from AVHRR for wide-area coverage to Landsat TM and SPOT for higher resolution imagery.

Research and development of airborne video, digital camera systems, radar, and GPS navigation continued to meet the needs of diverse ecosystem management applications. As the Forest Service moved to implement a national GIS, remotely sensed data continued to provide an integrated information base over wide areas.

The remote-sensing program of the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) continued to be a critical element in the analysis of domestic and foreign agricultural production by providing timely, accurate, and unbiased estimates of global area, yield, and production. The agency used satellite imagery, crop models, and remotely-sensed weather data to support DoS assessments of food needs in the states of the former Soviet Union, particularly Russia. FAS also prepared detailed analyses of droughts in northern Mexico, Argentina, and southern Africa and used satellite imagery to assess domestic crop conditions in support of work carried out by the Consolidated Farm Service Agency.

The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) shared costs with other Federal and State agencies to acquire aerial photography through the National Aerial Photography Program (NAPP) and produced digital orthoimagery. NAPP is being used as source imagery to develop digital orthoimagery to support the NRCS soil survey program, conservation technical assistance to private land users and GIS implementation. Digital orthoimagery combines the image characteristics of an aerial photograph with the accuracy and scale associated with a map. Technicians achieve these desirable imagery qualities by removing displacements caused by camera tilt and terrain relief. NRCS is a member of the interagency National Digital Orthophoto Program. Four Federal agencies and selected State agencies contributed funds to this program for the development of 1-meter resolution digital orthophotos. The NAPP imagery and digital orthoimagery are acquired by contracting to the private sector. As of October 1, 1995, about 20 percent of the conterminous United States was either complete or in progress.

DoI continued to cooperate with DoD to use the Navstar GPS Precise Positioning Service (PPS). By accessing the encrypted DoD GPS code, DoI users obtain more accurate, real-time, on-the-ground geographic location information (approximately 10 meters horizontal accuracy) than is currently available nationally using other GPS technology. DoI's Minerals Management Service used GPS in Federal offshore waters to determine the positions of occupied and abandoned oil and gas platforms, wellheads, and pipelines. They also used GPS to obtain accurate positions for mineral resources, protected wildlife species, and archeological artifacts. DoI's Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement expanded its use of Navstar GPS to locate water and mine overburden sampling sites for the Appalachian Clean Streams Initiative. This multi-agency effort is a public-private partnership aimed at predicting, preventing, and mitigating acid drainage from abandoned coal mines. DoI also has used Navstar GPS in the reclamation of remote mines in the White River National Forest of Colorado. The USGS also used GPS to map natural resources and geologic hazards. Access to Navstar GPS PPS is especially beneficial in remote locations where differential corrections are difficult to make and where accurate positions are required to relate observed phenomena to geologic features and hydrologic conditions. For example, USGS personnel used GPS techniques to map boundaries of potentially lethal quantities of carbon dioxide gas emanating from Mammoth Mountain in California after snow melted.

DoI's Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) used remotely-sensed data and GPS to conduct natural resource inventories, image mapping projects, GIS data base development, and training to support the BIA Indian Integrated Resource Information Program. BIA staff used Landsat-5 TM data to classify land cover on several reservations for agricultural assessment and forestry and wildlife applications. Land cover mapping continued in New Mexico and Colorado to provide input for modeling potential burn rates of varying vegetation types in response to fires. BIA staff also prepared image maps for more than 15 reservations using data from the Landsat TM and SPOT. BIA staff who produce GIS data bases that support resource inventory programs took GPS training during FY 1995.

DoI's Bureau of Land Management continued to use remotely-sensed data and GPS technology to monitor the health of public lands and in all aspects of its ecosystem-based management activities, including inventory, assessment, modeling, and monitoring. The analysis of aerial photographs and satellite data directly supported the ecosystem-based management of mineral resources, land use planning, fire fuels mapping, the characterization of wildlife habitat, and the delineation of hazardous material impacts at a number of sites on public lands throughout the United States.

DoI's Bureau of Mines continued to apply remote-sensing to studies of abandoned noncoal mine lands in the Cripple Creek mining district in central Colorado. Data from the Landsat TM and NASA's Airborne Visible and Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (AVIRIS) provided valuable new information about the associations among clay minerals, iron minerals, and sulfides, in addition to their relationship with acid potential of mine wastes. The use of remote-sensing analysis to guide sample collection for chemical testing significantly reduced the time and cost of site prioritization and evaluation by land managers and regulators at the Federal, State, and local levels.

DoI's Bureau of Reclamation used remote sensing and GIS to aid in the management of water resources. During FY 1995, it used Landsat-5 TM and SPOT data to map irrigated lands, riparian vegetation, and open water in the Colorado River Basin. Together with other spatial data and environmental models, scientists used these maps in a GIS to produce estimates of consumptive water use. Reclamation staff used aerial photographs to prepare large-scale maps of land cover for environmental impact statements and water use models. They also used airborne video and thermal infrared scanner imagery to map river habitat for endangered fish species in the Colorado River system, including the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. These maps help reservoir managers regulate water flow to encourage the survival of endangered fish.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) continued to use computerized mapping, aerial photography, and satellite data to support ecosystems management and data-sharing initiatives with Federal, State, and local agencies and private industry. For example, its national wetlands inventory used high-altitude aerial photographs to produce wetlands maps of more than 80 percent of the United States and its territories. More than 16,000 digitized maps are available through the World Wide Web; in its first year, individuals and agencies from the United States and 25 other countries downloaded more than 93,000 maps. The national wetlands inventory and a private company developed a procedure, now patented by that company, to compare digital wetlands maps with later-date Landsat TM data to automatically determine whether a single wetlands map is still current or requires updating.

The National Biological Service (NBS), in partnership with FWS, continued to use Landsat TM and SPOT data in the Gap Analysis Program for identifying biological resources on lands that are not adequately protected to preserve biological diversity. These projects are funded in 40 states, involving hundreds of cooperating organizations at the Federal, State, and local levels. Scientists and technicians completed or nearly completed vegetation mapping in Arkansas, Arizona, California, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.

NBS used Landsat TM and AVHRR data to forecast the annual production of Arctic nesting geese and to study winter waterfowl habitats in the Central Valley of California. NBS personnel also used AVHRR data to identify damage in forested wetlands caused by Hurricane Andrew in Louisiana. Scientists also investigated the use of satellite radar imaging to estimate the amount and type of fire fuels, to detect flooding beneath marsh canopies, and to determine marsh impacts. NBS has been participating on an EOS interdisciplinary team investigating the use of NASA's AVIRIS data to estimate snow grain size, surface albedo, and liquid water content in the surface snow layer in California's Sierra Nevada Mountains. NBS also used GPS for locating field sampling points, establishing precise control points for photogrammetric applications, studying river bathymetrics/ profiles and desert tortoise habitat, mapping prairie dog towns, recording ranges and locations of rare and endangered plants, and determining spread rates of exotic species.

The National Park Service (NPS) continued to work with NBS to conduct a comprehensive, multiyear vegetation mapping program in more than 235 units of the National Park System to support the NPS inventory and monitoring program. Scientists initiated prototype mapping projects in five parks, representing a variety of ecoregions to test the National Vegetation Classification System and mapping protocols developed during the first year of the program. NPS and NBS also worked together using GPS to map and monitor shoreline changes in large coastal NPS units, such as the Cape Cod, Fire Island, and Assateague Island National Seashores and the Gateway National Recreation Area, especially during the fall storm season when significant shoreline changes occur.

NPS used Landsat-5 TM data to complete land-cover mapping in Alaska for Cape Krusenstern National Monument, Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve, and Kobuk Valley National Park. The Landsat system operator moved a portable Landsat receiving station to Fairbanks at the end of the 1995 summer season to acquire more complete Landsat coverage of Alaska. However, the timing of the station setup and unfavorable weather conditions resulted in little data collection for the 1995 growing season. NPS requested that the station be left in place for additional seasons. NPS used SPOT satellite data for the management and planning of the new Mojave Desert Preserve in California, particularly for detecting surface disturbances, developing trails, and studying recreational vehicle use.

The Multi-Resolution Land Characteristics Monitoring System, developed jointly by the USGS, EPA, NOAA, and other DoI partners, has contributed data to several projects, including weather forecasting, fire danger modeling, and ecoregions mapping. The USGS and the University of Nebraska at Lincoln have been developing an associated global land-cover characteristics data set with 1-kilometer AVHRR data.

By Executive Order of the President in February 1995, the Government declassified imagery acquired by intelligence satellites in the 1960's, thus extending the record of openly available remotely sensed data of the Earth's land surface back by a decade before the first Landsat satellite. The National Archives and Record Administration is to make this imagery available, while the USGS EROS Data Center will provide a catalog of the entire collection and a limited number of images through its online electronic Global Land Information System.


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Curator: Lillian Gipson
Last Updated: September 5, 1996
For more information contact Steve Garber, NASA History Office,
sgarber@hq.nasa.gov