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NASA’s Costa Rica radar trip winds up

February 5, 2010

A three-week-long NASA topography and land change study in Costa Rica and throughout Central America comes to a close Thursday.

While images won’t be ready for a matter of months, Armond Joyce, a NASA retiree living part-time in Costa Rica who has been in close touch with the pilots, said on Wednesday that the mission has “gone very well.”
 
In Costa Rica this week, the 14-person team has flown over and shot images of 22 square kilometers of forest that includes La Selva Biological Station, north of San José near Sarapiquí, and Sierpe on the southern zone’s Osa Peninsula. The images will help scientists gather data for vegetation studies that could determine the carbon storage capacity of the forest in these areas, according to Costa Rican officials. The team has also scanned La Amistad International Park on the Costa Rican-Panamanian border. This information will be used in the creation of 3D maps of the area.
 
On Wednesday afternoon and Thursday, NASA’s 83-foot Gulfstream III jet flew over Costa Rica’s main mountain ranges and gathered images of their volcanoes. Joyce expects these images to illustrate significant land changes because of the continuous volcanic activity.
 
The data will be gathered from the jet’s radar and pre-processed for analysis, a procedure that takes roughly two months. Once analyzed, the information and images will be available to the public. Costa Rican government institutes and public universities also plan to use the new data.
 
On Wednesday, officials from several government agencies learned how to analyze the data collected by NASA’s radar during a workshop sponsored by the U.S. space agency and Costa Rica’s Center for High Technology.
 
During the three weeks, the crew also examined ancient archeological sites in Guatemala and visited the Golfo de Fonseca, which hosts a mangrove forest that extends from Honduras into El Salvador.
 
The NASA squadron will rest in Costa Rica on Friday and head to Puerto Rico on Saturday.

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