US: NASA and Japan are working together to give access of 2.95 million earth images to online users. The images will be made ready for download for free. The amount of data that both these two countries are working on, cover 99 percent of the planet’s land mass. The news was announced by NASA on April 1. The giant task has been made possible because of the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER), a joint initiative of the U.S. space agency with the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) of Japan.
"We anticipate a dramatic increase in the number of users of our data, with new and exciting results to come," says ASTER science team leader Michael Abrams at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. The ASTER program has been capturing images of the planet since 1999. As part of this program, the public will be granted unlimited access to the database of ASTER. The content of this database ranges from the footprints of a strong tornado in Oklahama and the aftermath of flooding in Pakistan, to California wildfires and eruptions of Icelandic volcanoes.
While users could previously access ASTER’s digital topographic maps online for free, they had to pay METI for ordering other data products of the instrument, which has already exceeded its expected five-year lifespan and continues to observe Earth. Acquiring images in visible and thermal infrared wavelengths at spatial resolutions of up to 300 feet, ASTER creates detailed maps of Earth’s land surface temperature, elevation, and reflectance. Its data cover 83 degrees north latitude to 83 degrees south, with a single ASTER scene looking downward spanning a ground area of 37 by 37 miles.
Some noteworthy captures include a comparison of North Korea’s vegetation from 2002 to 2015, when it experienced one of its worst droughts; Venice, Italy’s 120 islands and 400 bridges that look intricate from space; the “Mars-like” terrain of the McMurdo Dry Valleys in Antarctica; and the changing glaciers of Alaska. Users worldwide can access ASTER images online by visiting Land Processes Distributed Active Archive Center and METI AIST Data Archive System.