NASA’s impressive Mars Perseverance rover might dominate the headlines, but behind the scenes, scientists are working on technology that’s arguably even more groundbreaking: using space satellites to save our planet and improve our way of life.
Greenhouse gases — especially carbon dioxide and methane — contribute significantly to the climate crisis, but scientists are monitoring the emissions from space.
Tracking our crops and water from space has tangible benefits for humans.
NASA’s Applied Science Program has been hard at work tracking changing water storage and rainfall patterns, a crucial service during a time of increasing drought. They also partner with the USDA and USAID to assess how water levels — necessary to grow crops — impact agricultural conditions and food insecurity.
NASA has also been tracking the levels of nitrogen dioxide in the air, highlighting the importance of laws like the Clean Air Act in mitigating air pollution.
NASA and other organizations monitor changes in Earth’s land coverage from outer space.
Deforestation is causing massive changes to Earth’s land coverage and threatening the habitats that support wildlife. 420 million hectares of forest have been lost through human land use since 1990.
But through careful satellite monitoring of changes in vegetation cover and land use, organizations like NASA can gauge threats to animal biodiversity and help with conservation efforts of at-risk animals.
Space stations that beam down energy from the sun might seem like something out of a science fiction movie, but that future may be closer than you think.
Space-based solar power stations could face the sun 24 hours a day, providing a constant stream of renewable energy to Earth. However, scientists must figure out how to gather the energy and materials to launch and build such stations, which are the size of approximately 1,400 football fields. So, we may need to wait a little longer before such plans can benefit planet Earth.