Windows on Earth Software to Improve Earth Observations
from International Space Station
ISS Over Italy: The International Space Station offers an unprecedented platform for Earth observations. Astronaut photographs as a complement to satellite data provides a powerful combination for science research, education and public engagement. (credit: NASA)
Windows on Earth software: Windows on Earth software will give scientists and astronauts improved tools to identify targets for Earth photography from the International Space Station.
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL. (May 29, 2012) – The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), the nonprofit organization managing research on the International Space Station (ISS), signed a Memorandum of Agreement with the TERC to provide a $300,000 investment that will greatly improve the process for attaining on-orbit photography from the ISS, as well as use of Earth images for scientific research and education. TERC, an education non-profit, in collaboration with the Association of Space Explorers (ASE) will enhance and adapt the Windows on Earth software for use by astronauts to replace the current multi-step process for targeting, photographing and geo-referencing images.
Windows on Earth was originally developed by TERC with funding from the National Science Foundation as an educational tool for use in museums, and it is currently installed at the National Air and Space Museum, Boston Museum of Science and several other museums. Astronaut members of the ASE recognized the potential of the simulation software to assist astronauts on the ISS and in 2008, a beta version was piloted on orbit. The agreement with CASIS allows for the full development of the integrated tool for permanent use on the ISS.
“Windows on Earth will provide cutting-edge, next generation tools for the Earth observation program. It will help scientists and astronauts select and photograph targets, and will enhance use of these photographs in research and education.” said Dan Barstow, TERC Principal Investigator for the Windows on Earth project.
Earth observation is an essential part of ISS science research. This software will provide critically important improvements to current tools by providing more accurate simulations of Earth views from ISS windows, and it will automatically link targets selected by scientists on the ground into the on-orbit software. These improvements will enable astronauts to photograph more high-priority targets and help scientists more readily use the photographs in their research.
In addition to their scientific value, many Earth images are compelling, informative, and engaging resources for education and public use. To that end, the CASIS/TERC agreement also includes support for enhanced public access to images via a user-friendly portal at Windows on Earth website (winearth.terc.edu). These NASA images will live in the public domain and will be provided at no cost to users.
The project team will work closely with astronauts on the ISS and with NASA’s Crew Earth Observation (CEO) team that manages ISS-based Earth observation initiatives, integrating this new tool into the current process. The software will be ready for deployment and astronaut use by December 2012.
CASIS supports use of the ISS National Lab for science research, education and public outreach. This includes Earth observation through the capture and broad utilization of high quality images of Earth and space.
“The ISS U.S. National Lab is our Nation’s most unique research platform, and providing high-quality imagery of the Earth and space from this platform for scientific and educational use will greatly increase the potential for finding solutions to some of mankind’s greatest challenges,” said CASIS Interim Executive Director Jim Royston. “The new Windows on Earth software will enable astronauts to photograph many more targeted images than ever before. We are excited to have the opportunity to enable such technology for the benefit of humankind.”
The Association of Space Explorers (ASE), an international nonprofit professional association of astronauts and cosmonauts, has worked closely with TERC on the development of the orbital version of Windows on Earth and will continue to support deployment and utilization of the software once onboard the ISS.
“We are very pleased to be a team member on this incredible project. From the very beginning, we understood that this capability would benefit not only our members on orbit, but would also contribute significantly to growing public awareness of our home planet and the many challenges we face in protecting it for future generations”, said Andy Turnage, Executive Director of the ASE.
“This is the best Earth observation tool that I have ever seen,” added Expedition Astronaut and ASE Member Jim Voss. “Other methods of determining location of photo targets pale by comparison.”
About CASIS: The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) was selected by NASA in July 2011 to maximize use of the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory through 2020. CASIS is dedicated to supporting and accelerating innovations and new discoveries that will enhance the health and wellbeing of people and our planet. The CASIS goal is to bring the magic of space down to earth. For more information, visit www.iss-casis.org.
About the ISS National Laboratory: In 2005, Congress designated the U.S. portion of the International Space Station as the nation's newest national laboratory to maximize its use for improving life on Earth, promoting collaboration among diverse users and advancing STEM education. This unique laboratory environment is available for use by other U.S. government agencies and by academic and private institutions, providing access to the permanent microgravity setting, vantage point in low earth orbit and varied environments of space. The ISS National Laboratory Office at NASA’s Johnson Space Center currently facilitates research initiatives on board the station’s National Lab, but management of America’s only on-orbit laboratory is transitioning to CASIS. www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station.
About TERC: For more than 40 years, TERC has been introducing millions of students throughout the United States to the exciting and rewarding worlds of math and science learning. TERC is an independent, research-based organization dedicated to engaging and inspiring all students through stimulating curricula and programs designed to develop the knowledge and skills they need to ask questions, solve problems, and expand their opportunities. Visit www.terc.edu for more information. Windows on Earth (winearth.terc.edu) was funded by the NSF (#DRL-0515528).
About ASE: The Association of Space Explorers (ASE) is an independent, nonprofit 501(c)(3) professional and educational organization of over 375 flown astronauts and cosmonauts from 35 nations. Founded in 1985, ASE’s mission is to provide a forum for professional dialogue among individuals who have flown in space; to promote the benefits of space science and exploration; to promote education in science and mathematics and inspire students at all levels; to foster environmental awareness; and to encourage international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space. For more information, please visit: www.space-explorers.org.