USA –-The U.S. Forest Service launched an important partnership with NASA that coincided with the mid-May liftoff of a new crew for the International Space Station (ISS). Through this partnership, the ISS crew may use high resolution photographs to document the extent and impacts of wildfire in the U.S.
NASA Flight Engineer Joseph Acaba and his Russian crewmates, Soyuz Commander Gennady Padalka and Flight Engineer Sergei Revin, launched aboard the Soyuz TMA-04M spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan May 14.
The trio arrived at the orbiting space station May 16, to join Expedition 31 Commander Oleg Kononenko of the Russian Federal Space Agency, Flight Engineer Don Pettit of NASA and Flight Engineer Andre Kuipers of the European Space Agency. Kononenko, Pettit and Kuipers have been aboard the ISS since December. Padalka, Acaba and Revin will transition to the Expedition 32 crew in July and return to earth in mid-September.
NASA and the U.S. Forest Service have had a tradition of working together in a variety of partnerships involving wildfire and imagery from space, said Alaska Regional Forester Beth Pendleton. We are fortunate Astronaut Joe Acaba, an avid supporter of our national forests and public lands, will work with Smokey Bear and the Forest Service as time permits during the mission to highlight the impact of wildfires on our public lands.
According to the Department of Agriculture, on average, federal and state agencies respond to more than 70,000 wildfires per year.
Throughout their mission, we hope to highlight many of the advances benefitting public lands, made not only in wildland fire protection and mitigation, but in forest health and predictive modeling, as a result of space exploration and our partnership with NASA, added Pendleton.
Another exciting aspect of the mission may be the involvement of Americas national symbol for wildfire preventionSmokey Bear. Smokey is the center of one of the longest running and most effective public service campaigns in U.S. history. Smokey will turn 68 on August 9. NASA has a very important schedule for Joe while at the ISS, noted Pendleton, but if all goes well, he may be able to interact with Smokey Bear through Facebook, Twitter and other social media to describe the wildfires he observes from space.