NASA shuttles data to local level

NASA shuttles data to local level

Kentucky's Geographic Information Office will get new satellite images of the Bluegrass State.

Susan Carson Lambert, executive director of Kentucky's Geographic Information Office, doesn't hide her excitement about the recent $1.3 million grant her office received from NASA.

The award will let the office update its nearly 10-year-old maps of the state created by satellite photography. And it will introduce remote sensing'the use of satellite imagery to study land features'to state and local governments, something Lambert believes is long overdue.

'It has been tough to get [remote sensing] going on this level,' she said. 'By using remote sensing, we will be able to gain a better idea of land use in urban and rural areas.'

Land grab

Kentucky was one of 15 state, local and tribal governments to receive grants totaling $10.5 million from NASA's Earth Science Enterprise Applications Division. The office issued a broad agency announcement soliciting proposals from governments to use the space agency's data, research and technology to help plan their resources management, environmental assessment, community growth, and infrastructure and disaster management.

'The program takes technologies and expands them to a broader sector beyond the earth science community,' said Alex Tuyahov, deputy director of the Applications Division in NASA's Earth Science Office. 'There was an obvious need in the state and local communities for these types of technologies.'

Kentucky's project involves taking satellite snapshots of the landscape to determine how land is being used. The photographs are stored digitally, and Kentucky officials compare them with earlier satellite images to see how the area has changed.

'We don't really have a good idea of the landscape in Kentucky,' Lambert said. 'This also will help with our smart-growth initiative.'

Beginning this month, a satellite owned by Space Imaging Services Inc. of Ann Arbor, Mich., will take the pictures. Lambert's office also will work with officials from Morehead State University, the Forest Service and Geological Survey to collect field data the state will compare with satellite data.

Lambert will use the data to get an idea of Kentucky's forest cover and land use in the state's 30 largest urban areas.

Leslie Wollack, the National State Geographic Information Council's liaison to NASA, said remote sensing has been used mainly for tax assessments and agriculture applications.

'State and local governments are slow in adapting to new technologies,' she said. 'The intent of this program is for state and local governments to become familiar enough with what is available and then use the private sector to meet their needs.'

Large draw

NASA received an overwhelming response to the announcement. More than 232 state and local agencies submitted abstract proposals, of which NASA asked 39 to developed full proposals.

'We laid the groundwork for this program by holding a series of regional workshops on the available NASA technology and how to apply these technologies,' Tuyahov said. 'We encouraged the involvement of the private sector and academia because once NASA's funding runs out the relationship still can continue.'

Tuyahov said the agency plans to release another announcement during the summer for the second round of the program, which will result in another $10.5 million in grants.

The program has received the attention of Rep. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), who introduced a bill last June to establish grants for the integrated use of remote sensing and other geospatial information by state, local and tribal governments.

'This community is really big in using geospatial data, and there has been a fantastic response for NASA data,' Tuyahov said. 'The announcement put some seed on fertile ground.'

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