1997 NSLRSDA 14 minutes

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A 1997 presentation on the National Satellite Land Remote Sensing Data Archive, led by the USGS Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center 


Date Taken:

Length: 00:13:51

Location Taken: Sioux Falls, SD, US


We keep records for the
same reason we build schools,

raise children,
or support elderly parents.

We keep records because of our
commitment to the values of our

civilization and to provide a historic
perspective for future generations.

We also keep records
because of what our ancestors did

and what we hope
our children will do.

Remote sensing – acquiring information
about a target from a distance –

is one of the most important technologies
of this and the next century.

Federal and state agencies have collected
data of the Earth’s surface from

satellites, aircraft, and other information-
gathering systems for decades.

These remotely sensed data are
important for our national security,

economic development,
and scientific research

because they help us understand
our changing Earth system.

As a nation, the United States
has invested heavily in the

data-gathering and
observation side of remote sensing.

America stands to lose
much of its investment unless it

focuses on the long-term preservation
of these irreplaceable data sets.

Since 1972, the United States
Geological Survey’s EROS Data Center

has collected, processed, cataloged,
and distributed many of these data.

As a result,
the USGS EROS Data Center

now holds data in trust
for the benefit of all people.

This national asset features
over 11 million satellite images

and aerial photos and
includes more than 30 years

of satellite data and 50 years
of aerial photographs.

New technologies to be launched
into space in the near future

will result in exponential growth in
the quantity of Earth observations.

Data creates information.
Information creates knowledge –

a powerful tool to help answer
complex questions about the

global environment and the human
role in environmental change.

Sound scientific data often stimulates
new science and research when

historical data are combined
with more current observations.

This sparks new applications
and innovations in technology

in government
and private industry.

For instance, how has the global
environment changed over time?

What can the past
tell us about the future?

And how can we predict,
prevent, lessen, or adapt to

the effects of natural hazards
and those caused by people?

In 1992, Congress directed the
Department of the Interior to establish

and manage a National Satellite
Land Remote Sending Data Archive.

The executive branch
also authorized the archive

in its national space policy,
released in 1996.

Its institutional home is the
USGS EROS Data Center.

An archive is a facility
where records relating to

the activities of a nation
are collected, maintained,

reproduced, distributed, and held.
It’s also a place where data can be

used to generate new
products and support science.

The National Land Remote Sensing
Data Archive is similar in many ways

to equally important, but older, more
established national archives, such as the

Library of Congress and the National
Archives and Records Administration.

These federal facilities
each have created

information infrastructures
for specific constituencies

because there is a national benefit
to having access to such resources.

The data archive records activities
about where and how people live,

use land and water,

and how they are
affected by natural hazards.

The archive data and services are
available to scientists, land managers,

decision-makers, and
private companies to monitor

the long-term effects of the activities
of people and natural Earth processes.

- An archive of imagery is
absolutely essential to our

historic record of
how things are changing.

When we look at questions like
acid precipitation, or we look at

questions about the spread of an
insect disease, for example,

like the gypsy moth or
the woolly adelgid,

quite often we don’t realize
it’s happening until it’s too late.

And then we might need to
go back and reconstruct it.

Quite often, it would help us
to know how it spread, to know

what kinds of areas are vulnerable to it.
And the only way to do that is to

have a retrospective, which can
only be acquired through an archive.

- Landsat is a series of Earth-orbiting
satellites launched by NASA.

NASA launched the first in a series
of these satellites in the early 1970s

to acquire information on
the resources of the Earth’s land.

Because the USGS EROS Data Center
has maintained and distributed

Landsat data since 1972,
these data are the largest single asset

of the National Satellite Land
Remote Sensing Data Archive.

The archive also
contains data from

other satellites and aircraft,
which complement Landsat data.

The relevance of the
National Satellite Land Remote

Sensing Data Archive
grows and changes over time.

For example, America is now in a
transition to an information-based,

or knowledge, economy.
The archive is helping America

transition from the
Cold War era by holding historic,

declassified satellite photos
collected by the United States

intelligence community
during the 1960s.

The archive will include all future data that
influences or impacts the land acquired by

sensors of NASA’s Earth
Observing System.

The archive also will hold many types
of products generated from these data.

Other data available in the
archive will include all

Landsat 7 data and select
portions of land data acquired

through cooperative partnerships
with other nations, such as France.

- More and more people are
depending and needing to depend on

the environment
in which we live.

And the archive provides
extremely important documentation,

not only today, but historical,
about phenomenon and

circumstances on the
surface of the Earth.

- Managing remotely sensed data
is a complex and expensive job.

Among other things, it entails cataloging,
storing, distributing, and copying.

These tasks ensure that the
products derived from

Earth observation programs are
accessible to researchers over time.

For example, hundreds of thousands
of remotely sensed land satellite images

have been converted from old,
high-density tapes to smaller,

digital cassette tapes, which are more
durable and hold more information.

The Thematic Mapper and Multispectral
Scanner Archive Conversion System

preserves invaluable one-of-a-kind
data and reduces the amount

of space required for storing
them by a factor of 40.

- There are many challenges
that are facing archives,

both nationally and international.
And given our reliance upon the

internet and the need to access global
information, it’s very important,

as we discuss the challenges
facing archives, that we do it

in an international context.
The first challenge is how to

design a distributed system of access
to information resources in a networked

environment. And there are several
key components to that system.

First is, how to manage the
growing volume of

digital information
for the scientific community,

for the technical and
research community,

cultural and historical
digital data sets.

A second factor is, how do we migrate
the older historical, but equally relevant,

information into these
new accessible formats?

And finally, how do we design
a system that is flexible and

can evolve over time to
accommodate the needs of the

researcher and accommodate
new technologies

and the growing data sets
in digital and other formats?

We have not devoted
as many resources or focus

to long-term preservation
and access issues.

It is not widely understood
how important access to the

historical record is, not only
to the scientific enterprise,

but to the economy
as a whole.

And engaging members of the
research and education community

and policymakers about the
need to focus on preservation issues

will be critically important.
And this will likely entail

the commitment of new
resources to such an endeavor.

- Once remotely sensed
land satellite data are converted,

users still must be
guaranteed quick, easy access.

That’s why the USGS provides many
valuable computer support services,

such as the Global Land
Information System –

an online computer system with
graphic tools, which allows anyone

requesting land remote sensing
data to locate it easily themselves.

- The principal benefit of having an
archived data set that would include,

say, satellite-based information,
I think, deals with what I would call

a change
detection process.

In the state of Utah, for example,
we’re one of the most

rapidly growing states now.
And what’s rather exciting is,

we have a characterization map
at this point in time now.

And we can come back in the future
and begin to see, what were

the impacts of the development?
Did we channel it in the right direction

to minimize impacts
on our own resources?

- The USGS EROS Data Center
supports the National Satellite

Land Remote Sensing Data Archive
by continuing to discover new ways

to improve the quality and availability
of its products and services.

EROS staff, for example,
plan and coordinate present and

future content of the archive,
provide scientific support,

define product characteristics
and mathematical formulas

users can agree on to guide
data processing systems,

convert historical archive data
to new, more durable media,

and develop new conversion
systems for future archive data.

Because data leads to information,
information leads to knowledge, and

knowledge leads to understanding,
it’s critical that these data be preserved.

They must be maintained and
saved to provide long-term access

to needed Earth science information
by many user communities.

The U.S. Geological Survey’s
National Satellite Land Remote

Sensing Data Archive at
EROS is more than an archive.

It’s a commitment to an investment
in a 21st century asset that invites you

to look at the world like
you’ve never looked at it before.