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California Governor Visits NASA Ames Research Center
||Left: California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and NASA Ames Research Center Director S. Pete Worden examine hyperwall-2, a state-of-the-art visualization system developed at Ames. Hyperwall-2 is one of the largest displays in the world and is used by scientists for data interpretation. Schwarzenegger visited Ames July 14, 2008, for a behind-the-scenes tour and briefings about NASA’s support to firefighters battling California wildfires. Ames scientists are partnering with colleagues at Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, Calif., to send NASA’s remotely piloted Ikhana aircraft on reconnaissance flights using sophisticated visual and thermal sensors to provide up-to-the-minute information to firefighters in the field.
Photo Credit: NASA Ames Research Center / Eric James
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California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger received a behind-the-scenes tour of NASA’s Ames Research Center to learn more about the agency’s help in fighting wildfires that are ravaging the state. Firefighters are still battling 300 of the nearly 18-hundred separate fires started by lightning three weeks ago, exhausting fire crews and stretching resources to the breaking point.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzeneggar:
“It is great to be here today at NASA, at the NASA Ames Research Center to see one of the most exciting new weapons in our firefighting arsenal.”
In response to the state’s request for help, NASA has flown Ikhana (eye-kah-nah), a remotely controlled airplane based at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base in southern California. The aircraft flew over more than 4,000 square miles from Santa Barbara north to the Oregon border and is currently scheduled to fly over even more fires.
The sensor package, developed at Ames, uses infrared cameras that are capable of "seeing" through smoke and haze to identify a fire’s hot spots. These images also show new flare-ups as well as the direction and speed at which the fire is moving. The data is then transmitted back to NASA Ames, using a high-speed satellite communication system. Here, the Ikhana data is overlayed onto Google Earth and Microsoft Virtual Earth maps, giving a realistic, 3-D view of the wildfire. The information is then sent via the internet to fire commanders in as little as 10 minutes, helping them decide where to best deploy their resources.
Steve Hipskind, Chief, Earth Science Division, NASA Ames:
"The real leap that we've made here is getting the right data in near real time, getting it to the people, telling them where the fire fronts are, where they’re moving, and you need that information within minutes so that they can make decisions about where to put people on the ground."
Del Walter Asst. Regional Chief, California Dept. of Forestry:
“I wish I’d had this tool 20 years ago. You can only imagine the feeling of seeing a fire take off up a hill and lifting embers and the wind blowing and you don’t know from where you’re standing if it’s gone over the next road, over the next hill or over the next creek. So to know if there’s a community out there that’s being threatened and that you need to stop what you’re doing and change gears and employ different tactics is of tremendous value to the firefighters.”
S. Pete Worden, Center Director, NASA Ames:
“Over the last few years, we’ve worked with the state and with the forest service and others to be able to modify this aircraft so that it could help see through the smoke and help the firefighters vector in to be much more effective. It’s really great for NASA and our people to be able to help the people of California and to save lives. I’m proud.”
During his visit, the governor had the opportunity to sit in an Ikhana flight simulator. Here screens can be selected to show real-time video, aerial infrared images, or other data from the aircraft. The governor also was shown NASA’s new “hyperwall-2,” a 23-foot long high-resolution display system. Besides displaying the location of the fires, the hyperwall can show images containing up to 250 million pixels, and often is used by researchers to view simulations generated by Ames' supercomputers. Governor Schwarzenegger said the number of fires makes it all the more important to use every tool at the state’s disposal to protect property and save lives.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger:
“So this unmanned plane is a true lifesaver and I again want to thank NASA for putting this vehicle into action. I want to thank them for their great, great work.”
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