NASA is famous for lots of things. Monkeys. Mercury. Gemini. Apollo. Space Station(s). Space Shuttles.
Did you know that NASA in conjunction with the USGS, through the LANDSAT program; is, and has been for 40 continuous years, protecting us by providing huge amounts of data for free to the world every day?
When I say huge amount of data, you have to imagine computers with thousands of times the computing and storage power of your own dealing with Petabytes of information, daily. What the heck is a petabyte? It is a huge, huge amount of data. This is made free to the world every day. This is what all the money and science and people are up to besides flying rockets and satellites and supporting and running missions to the International Space Station.
That this data is being used to help with decisions about long term water and land use, long term development and environmental changes? That this data is being used to track natural disaster changes and is permanently flowing into the public domain though NASA, the National Archives and then through the LANDSAT distribution networks at research facilities, universities and libraries?
I was fortunate to be invited to the NASA SOCIAL event at Vandenberg Airforce Base for the LDCM launch of the LANDSAT 8 satellite. We are all very lucky to have such dedicated, brilliant people working for an agency like NASA. The United States Air Force 30th Space Wing were extraordinary hosts and do a job every day, that is literally out of this world.
They make sure that important stuff makes it from Earth, leaving the planet to a safe arrival out in space. It is amazing. Really. The whole thing. I go back to: We are very lucky to have amazing people working tremendously demanding jobs to ensure the planet has a daily information flow about itself. Like a check up of a different part of the planet every few hours or so.
I came away with two distinct lessons.
1. NASA is performing a critical science function every single day, critical to the planet. Indeed I tweeted this from the event:
2. The U.S. Air Force, and the commercial companies involved are indeed in a true space race again. Vandenberg is a 100,000 acre facility with launch pad after launch pad, some of which are now being leased to commercial elements. This is on. It is big. It is not something that U.S. Politicians in Congress should be either skimping on or ignoring. Talk about real. All the politicization of NASA's budget has to come to an end and America has to once again fully support our space program, and the importance it has daily to our lives.