Spacecraft opens gateway to Earth data

Data collected by the Terra spacecraft launched more than a year ago isnow being made available to scientists and citizens via the World Wide Web.

"It is in place. You can log in to our U.S. data gateway and get the data,"said Dolly Perkins, who heads up the Earth Orbital Science Data and InformationSystem (EOSDIS) at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.

The {http://eos.nasa.gov/imswelcome} Earth Observing System Data Gatewayis not a physical location, but a virtual one hosted at a number of sites,she said.

Terra, launched Dec. 18, 1999, is the so-called flagship of what NASA envisionsas a 19-satellite network that will collect data on the Earth's lands, oceansand atmosphere for the purpose of understanding the causes and effects ofclimate changes and the role of human activities in the changes.

Terra's principal mission is to collect data on the current state of theatmosphere, land and oceans and their interactions with each other and withsolar radiation, according to an {http://eospso.gsfc.nasa.gov/eos_homepage/missions.html}outline of the project.

In some cases, people can even capture the data streaming from Terra directly.

"We do have with the Terra satellite a direct broadcast, so if you havethe right kind of antenna, you can get the data today — if you're sittingunder its [orbital] path," Perkins said.

Picking up the direct broadcast data takes a 3-meter antenna. There areabout a dozen sites doing that, she said.

In July, NASA will launch the next EOSDIS satellite, called Aqua. It willconduct studies of the land, ocean and atmosphere and their relationshipto changes in the planet.

Perkins said the EOSDIS program "is on track to do what we need it to do"after problems in recent years with cost overruns and delays. For fiscal2001, Congress appropriated $277 million for the program — $35 million morethan the agency requested.

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