David E.

Steitz Headquarters, Washington (Phone: 202/358-1730)

Dec. 17, 2001

Lanee Cooksey Stennis Space Center, Stennis, Miss. (Phone: 228/688-3341) RELEASE: 01-243 NASA ASSISTS GOVERNMENT EFFORTS FOLLOWING SEPT. 11 NASA's Earth Science Enterprise sent a remote-sensing scientist to New York following the events of Sept. 11 to aid the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in the disaster recovery efforts. Using advanced technologies it has developed for observations of Earth, NASA was able to provide imagery that was used by emergency managers to identify dangerous areas of the site and determine the material composition of the wreckage. "FEMA asked NASA to provide technical assistance in the use of remote-sensing technology to assist response teams working at New York's World Trade Center. NASA also gave the city expert advice on how to obtain needed technology and imagery commercially and from other government sources," said Dr. Ghassem Asrar, Associate Administrator for Earth Sciences, NASA Headquarters, Washington. NASA Headquarters asked Dr. Bruce Davis of its Stennis Space Center, Stennis, Miss., to act as a technical consultant to NASA's Northeast Regional Applications Center, in Auburn, N.Y., in providing visualizations of the affected area for the governor's office. Shortly after his arrival, Davis was asked to come to New York City to provide remote-sensing technical assistance to FEMA. "Our Stennis program's strongest asset was the ability to communicate with the disaster response community; determine the information-product requirements; and translate those requirements into technical specifications that could be met by commercial or other government-agency providers. Where information products were not available, we developed a 'tiger team' at Stennis to create information tailored to needs in the recovery efforts for the Sept. 11 disaster,"

Davis said. Some of the questions Davis and his NASA team were able to answer for FEMA included: * Would oblique photography help? How could such near-realtime imagery be used to locate buried structures like stairwells, or estimate the volume of the debris pile? * Why do airborne-laser data collected have so many anomalies, and what causes them? * Is it possible to get high-resolution images that penetrate the smoke? * Are there remote sensing technologies that can detect underground voids? * Is it possible to obtain accurate, near-real-time thermal data that identify where hot spots are? The NASA team also was able to recommend changes in how the thermal imagery being collected was processed to improve its accuracy, and the group developed an algorithm for calculating the extent of the debris pile that was simple and efficient enough to be run every day following the attack. "Technical information provided by NASA made a real difference in how remote sensing was used during the disaster response. The real value is that FEMA gained a wealth of knowledge from NASA that FEMA will have at its disposal from now on," said Asrar. "This event illustrates how NASA's investment in Earthscience applications and America's investment in the space program can pay off in emergency response situations," said Davis. "NASA is putting in place an Earth science program that will leverage science, technology and applications to address real issues of community and national concern." NASA's Earth Science Enterprise is a long-term research effort that investigates how natural and human-induced changes affect our global environment. -end-