GeoWorld August 2012

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NEWSLINK NOAA Floats New Coastal- Mapping Ship The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently commissioned the Ferdinand R. Hassler mapping vessel, which will detect and monitor changes to the sea floor. The new vessel joins a fleet of ships and aircraft operated, managed and maintained by NOAA's Office of Marine and Aviation Operations. NOAA will use data collected by the ship to update nautical charts, detect potential hazards to navigation and enhance understanding of the marine environment. Ferdinand R. Hassler will operate primarily along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, the Caribbean Sea, and the Great Lakes. "With the growth in the size of commercial ves- sels and the importance of waterborne commerce to our economic security, there is a critical need for accurate information about our coastal waterways," said Kathryn Sullivan, assistant secretary of com- merce for environmental observation and prediction. "This advanced NOAA survey vessel will play a vital role in ensuring safe navigation and commerce as we work each and every day to position America for the future." The 124-foot, twin-hull ship will conduct basic hydrographic surveys of the sea floor using side-scan and multibeam sonar technologies. It also can deploy buoys and unmanned submersibles as well as sup- port general oceanographic research. The ship's name came from a team of 10th-grade students and a teacher from Naugatuck High School in Naugatuck, Conn., who won a NOAA contest to name the vessel. Ferdinand Rudolph Hassler, born in 1770, served as the founding superintendent of the Coast Survey, the precursor to today's NOAA. USGS Keeps Landsat 5 Satellite Alive The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) injected a bit of life into its aging Landsat 5 satellite, which has orbited Earth more than 150,000 times since its launch in 1984 and has been experiencing problems with its thematic mapper (TM) instrument. Engineers have been able to power-on a long-dormant data-collection instrument aboard the satellite—the multispectral scanner (MSS), which has been offline for more than a decade. USGS now is acquiring MSS data over the United States only. The news is significant, because USGS continues to work toward launch of an eighth Landsat satellite, meaning that data from current Landsat craft still are key to Earth-observing operations. Landsat 7, activated in 1999, continues to collect images world- wide. But, in 2003, Landsat 7 experienced a hard- ware failure that caused a 22-percent loss of data in every image. Meanwhile, the Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LDCM or Landsat 8), is scheduled for launch in January 2013. "The resurrection of the MSS a decade after it was last powered up, and 25 years beyond its nominal lifespan, is welcome news indeed," said Marcia McNutt, USGS director. "While not a complete replacement for the loss of the thematic mapper, it does provide some insurance for ensuring Landsat data continuity, should Landsat 7 fail prior to Landsat 8 achieving orbit next year." The MSS sensor, a forerunner of TM, gathers data in The recently commissioned NOAA Ship Ferdinand R. Hassler will conduct basic hydrographic surveys of the sea floor using side-scan and multibeam sonar technologies. 6 GEO W ORLD / AUGUST 2O12 fewer spectral bands than TM. It also has lower pixel resolution and doesn't acquire thermal data. Each MSS scene, however, covers the same area as a TM scene— approximately 12,000 square miles. Since Landsat 5's launch in the 1980s, the two instruments have trans- mitted more than 5 million images of land conditions to U.S. and international ground stations. NOAA

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