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NASA Develops New Software to Optimize Freshwater Observation Missions
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NASA Develops New Software to Optimize Freshwater Observation Missions
by Clarence Oxford
Los Angeles CA (SPX) Mar 27, 2024

In an era where Earth's freshwater resources are increasingly under scrutiny, NASA has taken a significant step forward by developing a software tool designed to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of science missions aimed at observing terrestrial freshwater. Spearheaded by Bart Forman, an Associate Professor at the University of Maryland, in collaboration with the Stevens Institute of Technology and NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, the Observational System Simulation Experiment (OSSE), is engineered to streamline the planning and execution of missions by leveraging a multitude of observation sensors.

The complexity of Earth's freshwater systems, encompassing snow, soil moisture, vegetation, surface water, and groundwater, requires sophisticated observation techniques. Traditional methods often fall short in capturing the dynamic nature of these resources. Forman's initiative, building upon his previous work and utilizing advanced modeling tools from NASA's Land Information System (LIS) and Trade-space Analysis Tool for Designing Constellations (TAT-C), proposes a solution by offering a customizable platform for the dynamic observation of terrestrial freshwater storage.

This new software not only aids in the selection and organization of various sensors, including radars, radiometers, and lidars, but also introduces a cost estimation feature, enabling researchers to evaluate the financial implications of their mission proposals. By incorporating spaceborne data sets, the tool facilitates an integrated approach to mission planning, combining observations, data assimilation, uncertainty estimation, and physical modeling into a cohesive framework.

The software's innovation lies in its capacity to merge indirect observations from different sources, each with unique error characteristics, with land surface models. This integration aims to optimize the use of existing sensors and guide the development of future sensing technologies, enhancing the ability to quantify and understand freshwater dynamics on a global scale.

"The synergy of modeling tools and space-based measurements within this software represents a leap forward in our capacity to monitor terrestrial hydrology," Forman explained. "It's a collaborative effort, requiring a wide range of expertise, but the potential benefits for Earth science are immense."

Looking ahead, Forman and his team envision their software evolving to support the design of missions that not only utilize current sensor technologies but also anticipate future developments. This adaptive approach could revolutionize how researchers plan and implement observational missions, leading to more informed and effective management of Earth's freshwater resources.

Related Links
Land Information System
Water News - Science, Technology and Politics

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