NASA taking space ptogram to heartland through satellite'data
BY PBILIP BRABHBR ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER
WASHINGTON (AP»_ It could be a perfect marriage between science and politics.
Farmers and ranchers in the northern Plains would get access to the latest in space-age maps through a group of colleges led by the University of North Dakota. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration, in turn, could get people in the region and their mem-Scientists envision a time when farmerson computer-equipped trac-4 tors will make precise applications of pesticides and fertilizers, using climate forecasts and data on the varying crop and soil conditions in ' their fields.
. "Nowit'shard to understand what NASA does," said Richard Gowen, president of the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. But with the new program, people will "appreciate why we Vein space," he said.
At a hearing before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee last week, UNO's George Seielstad came armed with • a U.S. map showing where NASA's existing facilities are located. All are in the South or on the east and west coasts.
"We are bringing ... NASA's presence otrtto the people where-they live and work," said Seielstad, who is coordinating the new program.
NASA Administrator Dan Goldin is going to UND in July to look at the program, which \stased at the university's Center for Aerospace Sciences.
There are eight schools, including UND and the School of Mines, in five states in the consortium. The other schools are North Dakota State University, South Dakota State University, Montana State University and the universities of '- Montana, Wyoming and Idaho.
The five states have 10 senators between them, including Commerce Chairman tarry Pressler, R-S.D., and twoother members of the panel: MontanaRepublicanConradBurns, who chairs the science, technology andspace subcommittee; andNorth Dakota Democrat Byron Dorgan, bhe chief congressional supporter of the Upper Midwest consortium.
Dorgan insisted that a NASA authorization bill approved by the Senate last fall contain language set-ang up the consortium, a Senate aide said.
The bill has not received final con-jressional approval, but NASA is going ahead with the program anyway. UND has so far received about (300,000 fof planning.
"We're ensuring that the investment^ NASA's technology and sci-ince research gets out to the user :ommunity>" said Alexander Puyajiov, deputy director of NASA's >perations, data and information systems division.
Here's how the program would
bers of Congress excited about the space program.
The project is an offshoot of NASA's Mission to Planet Earth, which is designed to use satellite information to help scientists un-derstand'and predict global climate trends.
The UND-led group of universities, known as the Upper Midwest Aerospace Consortium, will have access to highly sophisticated data on soil conditions, topography and crops.
work in practice:
UND will operate a Public Access Resource Center that will assemble and electronically distribute satellite data collected at the Earth Resources Observation Systems Data Center near S^oux Falls, S.D.
A wheat farmer could get information throughout the growing season about his crop's yield and protein content. The better the yield and the higher the protein content, the more money the fanner will make,
The producer wouldlinow exactly when and where in his fields to apply fertilizer during the growing season- Signals from the Global Positioning System, a network of navigational satellites, would be used to guide his tractor.
In wet years, when crops exhaust-soil nutrients quickly, selective ap- . plieatians-ef nitrogen fortiliaar late ~~ in the growing season could significantly boost the wheat's protein content, Seielstad said.
Ranchers could use similar satellite data to decide where to graze livestock, he said.
Scientists at the other universities would be involved in interpreting the data and putting it to use in other fields. For example, the data ; will be valuable in deciding how to restore land around abandoned , mines, said Gowen, of the School of Mines.
There was initially some grumbling from scientists in the region ! outside of UND that they were not ' being consulted about the project. ' At last week's hearing, Pressler got ' SeielsWd to promise that the other college^ would bej included.
Gowen said the problems have been worked, out. "I'm very comfortable with the UND involvement,"^ said in a telephone interview.
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Copyright 1996, Gregory Times Advocate. The original work may be protected by U. S. copyright law (Title 17, United States Code), which governs reproduction, distribution, public display, and other uses of protected works. Some uses may be legal with permission from the copyright holder if the use is fair use or within another legal exemption. The user of this work is responsible for compliance with the law.
Devereaux Library. South Dakota School of Mines and Technology.