NASA scientists and Costa Rican students have collaborated to publish a new book that captures the splendor of Costa Rica's varied landscape as photographed by astronauts from space.
"Costa Rica from Space," the product of a joint effort between NASA and EARTH University in Costa Rica, captures changes over the past two decades in the environment and geography of Costa Rica. The work reveals, visually and through accompanying text, geographical, ecological, climatic, human, agricultural and urban phenomena occurring within Costa Rica, but illustrating the interdependence of all inhabitants of Earth. Aerial and ground photos supplement the photography from space.
"This book builds on two strengths -- our unique planetary perspective as captured by space photography and the power of experience from those who live and work in the places we photograph," said Franklin Chang-Diaz, NASA astronaut, Costa Rican native and author of the book's prologue. "From these two perspectives, knowledge of our planet is given to those who are entrusted with protecting it."
Astronauts have taken 500 photographs of Costa Rica since the days of the Apollo Program. This small proportion of the more than 400,000 photos taken by Space Shuttle crews is a measure of the persistent cloud cover that obscures tropical countries like Costa Rica. From 1993 to 1999, students from EARTH University interned at NASA's Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, compiling the best of these 500 photos.
Tropical humid ecosystems, such as Costa Rica's environment, are rich in natural resources and have great biodiversity. These fragile environments must be maintained by carefully balancing agricultural production and resource conservation. This challenge gave rise to the creation of EARTH University in 1990. The university awards degrees in agricultural sciences and natural-resource management.
EARTH students interned at JSC for three to four months to further their studies in these disciplines and to think about new approaches to managing their natural resources based on technologies available in the United States.
"The students submitted reports at the end of their internship," said Kamlesh Lulla, NASA chief scientist for Earth and Imaging Sciences at JSC and one of the book's authors. "The result was a manuscript of the photography of Costa Rica from space and analyses of that imagery."
NASA provided technical material and project reports, while EARTH University contributed ground photos. The book, written by Bert Kohlmann, Justin Wilkinson and Lulla, was printed in Costa Rica in 2002. EARTH students who participated in the project are listed among the book's contributors.
"This book is especially significant as it represents a testimony to interinstitutional and international cooperation," said Jose Zaglul, president of EARTH University. "A product of a joint effort between EARTH University and NASA's Johnson Space Center, the publication has received the support of the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization. I hope that this volume will be an important educational resource, not only for all Costa Ricans, but also for people in other parts of the world."
Each chapter covers a specific region of Costa Rica. The left column on each page is in Spanish; the right is in English. "The book has been primarily intended to educate the Costa Ricans in particular and the public in general," said Kohlmann, a professor at EARTH University. "We want to stress the fact that ecological processes are global and that they do not stop at political borders. So, events taking place in Africa, like sandstorms, reach all the way to the Caribbean Basin; river sediments that flow to the sea in Costa Rica can travel all the way to Colombia."
"Costa Rica's ex-vice president, Manuel Dengo, very kindly interested himself in the book," added Wilkinson, Lockheed Martin principal scientist at JSC. "He asked especially that an educational slant be given so that 'children and grandmothers' would be able to read and benefit from the book. We took this request to heart."
For more information about the book, contact EARTH University at: email@example.com
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