CSST aids Nasa with ‘Ecostress’

Alexandra's Centre for Space Science Technology (CSST) has partnered with Nasa in a scientific mission stakeholders say will have valuable agricultural spinoffs.

The CSST had facilitated the Nasa "Ecostress" mission and was a calibration and validation (cal/val) partner for the mission, CSST chief executive Steve Cotter said.

It was the CSST’s first international space mission partnership, and could eventually help increase agricultural yield, optimise forestry management and protect the world’s vulnerable ecosystems, Mr Cotter said.

The Ecostress mission will measure the temperature of plants and use that information to better understand how much water plants need and how they respond to stress.

The Ecostress instrument, which is roughly the size of a refrigerator, is installed on the International Space Station (ISS) and captures temperature measurements of  Earth’s surface and sends the data back  to Earth.

The Ecostress instrument on board the ISS captures images such as this one of Mount Taranaki,...
The Ecostress instrument on board the ISS captures images such as this one of Mount Taranaki, which shows the temperature of the land surface. It shows how Egmont National Park (circular area) is cooler than the surrounding pastoral land, while urban areas are significantly warmer. Photo: CSST/NASA

The New Zealand cal/val partnership brings together researchers from the University of Waikato, Manaaki Whenua-Landcare Research and the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (Niwa), who will provide Ecostress with ground measurements from New Zealand.

Each of the New Zealand partner organisations managed ecological research sites throughout New Zealand, where tower-mounted sensors measured the exchanges of carbon dioxide, water vapour, methane and other gases — "exactly what is needed to calibrate and validate space-based measurements from Ecostress", Mr Cotter said.

"By contributing to this mission, New Zealand researchers are playing a key role in both advancing scientific understanding of how plants use water, and enabling water managers, farmers and policymakers to utilise that data for better decision-making. Ultimately, this information could be used to protect the world’s vulnerable ecosystems while increasing agricultural yield and optimising forestry management."

The Ecostress data will be available free to New Zealanders.

pam.jones@odt.co.nz

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