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Earth Science Division Highlights for February 2013

NASA Ames begins use of Dragon Eye UAS

NASA Ames received official approval from NASA HQ on February 6 to acquire approximately 70 Dragon Eye unpiloted aircraft from the US Marine Corps through GSA. The first mission for the small, hand launched Dragon Eye will be to acquire measurements ofvolcanic plumes in Costa Rice to validate SO2 data products from the ASTER instrument. The Airborne Science group at Ames conducted a flight readiness review for in early February for that mission scheduled for next month. Additional test flights of the Dragon Eye will be conducted in DOE restricted airspace near Livermore the week of February 8. Pete Worden and Dave Korsmeyer  visited the facility at Ames housing the Dragon Eyes on February 12 and expressed their support for the acquisition and use of the platforms.

ATTREX mission completes its first two science flights

The Airborne Tropical Tropopause Experiment, a NASA Earth Venture 1 mission,  completed its first two science flights from DFRC in early February.   The third flight of six anticipated this month is scheduled for February 14.   The flight from Dryden are sampling the troposphere/stratosphere boundary in the mid-Pacific..

Airborne Science director visits Ames

Bruce Tagg, the director of the Airborne Science Program at NASA HQ and his deputy, Randy Albertson (NASA/DFRC) reviewed airborne science activities at Ames February 5-7.  The visit included meetings with Pete Worden and Col. Steve Butow, Wing Commander of the Califronia Air National Guard 129th .  Ames provides support to Airborne Science through mission management, IT systems for program and mission management, and support for integration and engineering across the NASA Science aircraft fleet.  Tagg expressed appreciation and support for the work at Ames at the conclusion of his visit.

California Biodiversity Council meeting

James Brass, Jay Skiles, David Bubenheim and Bill Toscano attended that latest meeting of the California Biodiversity Council in Davis California on February 6.  Jay Skiles, as a program associate for the biodiversity element in the Applied Sciences Program at NASAHQ was the “official” NASA representative.  Council members, all senior managers in federal and state agencies operating in California and with shared or overlapping responsibilities for maintaining biodiversity and sustainable ecosystems, expressed appreciation for NASA’s participation and look forward to developing projects of mutual interest in ecosystem modeling, information processing, and climate projections.

ARC research shows declining growth rates in eastern US forests

Warmer temperatures and changes in precipitation led to declining growth rates in eastern US forests between 2000 and 2010. Dr. Christopher Potter of Ames Research Center reached that conclusion after reviewing data from the first decade of this century collected by the MODIS sensor on NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites and other data sources.  The MODIS data showed declining density of green forest cover in four sub-areas – the Great Lakes, southern Appalachia, mid-Atlantic and southeastern Coastal Plain.  The changers in forest density reflected climate data indicating a warmer and drier decade.  Dr. Potter’s research was conducted under the National Climate Assessment and reported on in in the December 2012 edition of Natural Resources under the title, “Declining Vegetation Growth Rates in the Eastern United States from 2000 to 2012.”

ATTREX mission completes its fifth flight

 The Airborne Tropical Tropopause Experiment, a NASA Earth Venture 1 mission, completed its 5th  science flights from DFRC February 27.   The flight of 24.4 hrs on the Global Hawk UAS was generally successful although it started late due to problems with the Ku band communication system.  The 6th and final flight for this deployment of ATTREX is scheduled for Friday March 1.

ARC, CMU, USGS scientists and managers meet in Menlo Park

The USGS office in Menlo Park hosted a one-day meeting with staff from NASA Ames and Carnegie Mellon University (NASA Research Park) February 26th.  The meeting was the next step in a process to identify collaborative projects among the participants.  Presentations from researchers and managers in the three organizations described research areas of potential common interest and discussed the benefits of, and obstacles toward collaboration.  The meeting was also a follow-on to a visit to the facility on Fedbruary 24 by managers from the Earth Science Division at Ames.  That visit was to understand better the unique requirements of USGS for facilities in consideration of the potential move of the USGS Menlo Park offices and facilities to the NASA Research Park.

Site survey for MIZOPEX mission completed

Randy Berthold (SGE), the Mission Manager for the Marginal Ice Zone Observations and Processes EXperiment (MIZOPEX) Project, July15-August 15, 2013, completed a site visit to the North Slope of Alaska.  The goal was to evaluate possible sites to conduct flight operations measured against proximity to sea ice, available logistics support and lodging as well as airspace de-confliction requirements. Three proposed sites were inspected; Deadhorse, Kuparic and Oliktok Point. Another one, Happy Valley, was considered based on local input.  Sufficient information was obtained on each site to allow an evaluation and final selection by the PI and Science Team.  Upon final selection formal agreements will be initiated for ground facilities and the air space (FAA Certification Of Authorization) process started.




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