Wednesday, November 19, 2008

NASA's QuikSCAT Satellite Mission Honored

An Earth-observing satellite that has provided early detection of ocean storms and advanced the scientific exploration of global ocean wind patterns has been recognized for helping scientists better understand our home planet. NASA and the U.S. Department of the Interior Tuesday presented William T. Pecora Awards to NASA's Quick Scatterometer, or QuikSCAT, mission team and Samuel N. Goward of the University of Maryland, College Park.

The two agencies present individual and group Pecora Awards annually to honor outstanding contributions in the field of remote sensing and its application to understanding Earth. The award was established in 1974 to honor the memory of William T. Pecora, former director of the U.S. Geological Survey and under secretary of the Department of the Interior.

Bob Doyle, deputy director of the U.S. Geological Survey, and Margaret Luce, acting deputy director of NASA's Earth Science Division, presented this year's awards in Denver at the 17th William T. Pecora Memorial Remote Sensing Symposium.

Since 1999, the QuikSCAT team has advanced Earth science research and contributed to improved environmental predictions using measurements of global radar backscatter of wind speed and direction over the ice-free oceans. The QuikSCAT mission was conceived, developed and launched less than two years after the unexpected loss of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's Advanced Earth Observing Satellite-1 spacecraft, which carried the NASA scatterometer.

Goward, professor of geography at the University of Maryland, was recognized for his "outstanding and sustained scientific leadership in advancing remote-sensing science and especially the continuation of the Landsat Program." Goward played a key role on the Landsat 7 science team in planning the acquisition of the most robust, cloud-free global archive of Landsat imagery ever assembled.

QuikSCAT measurements have had enormous impact on marine forecasts by enabling early detection of the location, direction, structure and strength of ocean storms. Data from the satellite are made available within two hours of acquisition to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and other international weather forecasting centers to enhance marine watches and warnings, and to improve the quality of global and regional weather forecasts. QuikSCAT data also help monitor changes in Arctic sea ice and icebergs, as well as snow and soil moisture changes on land.

"We at NASA are very proud of the accomplishment of QuikSCAT," NASA Associate Administrator Christopher Scolese said. "The mission has improved our understanding of Earth, proved valuable to the research and operational communities, and demonstrated great cooperation among NASA centers, industry, and academia. It also has developed some of the best leaders in NASA and aerospace."

The QuikSCAT mission team includes personnel from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.; NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.; Ball Aerospace and Technology Corp. of Boulder, Colo.; the University of Colorado's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics in Boulder; and numerous principal investigators funded by NASA's Ocean Vector Winds science team.

Goward's career has been dedicated to advancing geographic education and Earth observation science. He currently leads an interagency research team to quantify the recent history of forest disturbance for the North American Carbon Program. Because of his many contributions to remote-sensing education, science and programs, Goward also has been awarded the U.S. Geological Survey John Wesley Powell Award and the American Society of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing Estes Memorial Award.

For more information, visit the William T. Pecora Award.


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