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April 1, 2002

Release: 02-19

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NASA, the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department, and the National Association for Search and Rescue (NASAR) have partnered for a simulated search and rescue mission to take place in the mountainous area of San Bernardino County, California, in early April.

NASA and NASAR signed an agreement on Nov. 1, 2001, to develop, test and implement equipment that can facilitate search and rescue missions within the United States. "We are very excited about the mission and the project in general," said Mike Tuttle, president of NASAR and a San Bernardino Sheriff's Department lieutenant. "Our ultimate goal is to enable local search and rescue organizations to locate missing aircraft in a more expedient time frame." NASAR is a 30-year-old, not-for-profit organization involved in the training and education of search and rescue personnel.

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., is the agency's Search and Rescue Mission Office and is coordinating the mission. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., designed and built the Airborne Synthetic Aperture Radar (AIRSAR) that flies on NASA's Airborne Science DC-8 based at the Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, Calif. The San Bernardino Sheriff's Office is supporting the mission with placement of ground targets and other local coordination.

The DC-8 carrying the AIRSAR instrument is scheduled to fly predetermined flight paths over the Lytle Creek area of San Bernardino County. The AIRSAR is an all-weather, side-looking imaging radar able to penetrate the trees and heavy underbrush of the area. Targets for the flight will be eight trihedral corner reflectors and several mock and actual aircraft crash sites.

David Imel, principal investigator for AIRSAR, explained that "synthetic aperture radar high-resolution images are formed by transmitting pulses from a moving aircraft or spacecraft and receiving the reflected pulses back from a target area. The pulses are added coherently to construct a "virtual antenna" (or synthetic aperture) which can be many miles long. The signals received by this virtual antenna are processed by a computer workstation into imagery of objects that would otherwise be obscured by things like clouds, forest canopy, thin sand cover and dry snow pack."


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