Earth Right Now: NASA SMAP (Soil Moisture Active Passive) Mission
As the global climate changes, there are real, measurable consequences. Satellite missions at NASA collect data on the health of our planet and how it changes over time.
NASA has measurable evidence that there are places on this planet that get too much rain and places that are getting too little. The problem of extensive flooding and severe droughts affects our agriculture. This in turn affects the amount of food available for Earth’s growing population.
There are several important PBL questions that can be posed for the inquiring mind. How does the measurement of precipitation advance our knowledge of the impact and consequences of climate change and the water cycle? How does the data on global rainfall and snowfall data expand our knowledge to help farmers facing drought? Who will feed the world?
NASA collects data about the air quality and precipitation through satellites, airplane laboratories, and with the help of scientists on the ground completing “ground trothing” studies.
The information gathered will be compiled and studied in longterm qualitative and quantitative research. Collaboration with other agencies in the United States and in other countries contributes to understanding and protecting our home planet.
Five new NASA satellite missions are collecting data from the vantage point of space. NASA can collect this data every 30 minutes, giving farmers valuable information for planning irrigation, planting, and harvesting.
“Agricultural drought occurs when the demand for water for crop production exceeds available water supplies from precipitation, surface water and sustainable withdrawals from groundwater,” said Forrest Melton, a research scientist in the Ecological Forecasting Lab at NASA Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California.
Educators can use the GLOBE lesson plans and protocols to help students understand soil and water. GLOBE is an international ground truthing effort by students and educators around the world.
Elementary grades K-5 have GLOBE programs that include storybooks and activities. The program also includes a teacher’s Implementation Guide, which outlines methods for using science inquiry in the classroom. The GLOBE programs connect literacy and STEM curriculum with helpful strategies and standards information. Vocabulary development and reading comprehension student learning outcomes are also presented.
“Discoveries at Willow Creek” takes the students on a water study adventure. “The Scoop on Soils” introduces elementary students to the wonders of collecting soil samples and comparing them to learn how life is affected by soil differences.
Grades 6-12 will be engaged in GLOBE learning activities on hydrology and soil. Learning activities, protocols for collecting data and assessment are all part of the students investigations.
NASA EPDC Education Specialist
NASA Glenn Research Center