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Dr. Tom Mace talks with a student from Punta Arenas, Chile, during a tour of the DC-8 aircraft.

Photo Number: ED04-0056-090
Photo Date: March 10, 2004
Formats: 578x480 JPEG Image (189 KBytes)
1233x1024 JPEG Image (738 KBytes)
2889x2400 JPEG Image (3270 KBytes)
Dr. Tom Mace, NASA DFRC Director of Airborne Sciences, talks with a student from Punta Arenas, Chile, during a tour of the DC-8 aircraft while it was in the country supporting the AirSAR 2004 campaign.

AirSAR 2004 is a three-week expedition by an international team of scientists that uses an all-weather imaging tool, called the Airborne Synthetic Aperture Radar (AirSAR) which is located onboard NASA's DC-8 airborne laboratory.

Scientists from many parts of the world including NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory are combining ground research done in several areas in Central and South America with NASA's AirSAR technology to improve and expand on the quality of research they are able to conduct.

In South America and Antarctica, AirSAR collected imagery and data to help determine the contribution of Southern Hemisphere glaciers to sea level rise due to climate change. In Patagonia, researchers found this contribution had more than doubled from 1995 to 2000, compared to the previous 25 years. AirSAR data will make it possible to determine whether that trend is continuing or accelerating. AirSAR will also provide reliable information on ice shelf thickness to measure the contribution of the glaciers to sea level.

AirSAR collects multi-frequency and multi-polarization radar data for a variety of science applications. It also acquires data in interferometric modes, providing topographic information (cross-track mode) or ocean current information (along-track interferometry). This March 2004 deployment was planned to:
  • Study the extent and distribution of archeological Mayan civilization (using foliage-penetrating radar)
  • Study the glaciers of Patagonia and the Antarctic peninsula
  • Investigate new techniques for the measurement of the forest structure of dense tropical forests
  • Fill in the largest "void" in the SRTM-derived map of South American topography
  • Collect additional data for various research initiatives

During the deployment data is collected over Central and South America and Antarctica. During the approximately 100 flight hours, AirSAR is expected to acquire polarimetric and/or interferometric data along a 20,000 km track, or about 200,000 sq. km of data over 40 sites for 30 scientists. AirSAR will collect data related to the following NASA Code YS science programs:

  • Cryospheric Science
  • Land Cover/Land Use Change
  • Natural Hazards
  • Physical Oceanography
  • Terrestrial Ecology
  • Hydrology

NASA used a DC-8 aircraft as a flying science laboratory. The platform aircraft, was based at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, Calif., collected data for many experiments in support of scientific projects serving the world scientific community. Included in this community were NASA, federal, state, academic and foreign investigators. Data gathered by the DC-8 at flight altitude and by remote sensing has been used for scientific studies in archeology, ecology, geography, hydrology, meteorology, oceanography, volcanology, atmospheric chemistry, soil science and biology.

NASA Photo by: Jim Ross
Keywords: DC-8, Airborne Science, AirSAR, Airborne Synthetic Aperture Radar, South America, Chile, Punta Arenas

Last Modified: March 12, 2004
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