More or less 400 kilometers above our heads, the International Space Station (ISS) with GEDI is in charge of expanding the limits of knowledge. On board, experiments are carried out with weightlessness, life support, propulsion, technologies are tested that may one day allow us to set foot on Mars or return to the Moon… And also, strangely enough, lasers are fired at the trees on Earth.
From an article in Ruetir by Lance Vaugn.
It sounds weird. And a little disturbing, too. But strange as it may seem, scientists have two good reasons to do so: expand our knowledge of the planet’s forests and improve strategies for capturing and storing CO2, essential if we want to meet our climate goals and avoid the worst consequences of global warming.
The initiative is part of the Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation mission —GEDI, for friends— and is developed hand in hand by NASA and the University of Maryland with LiDAR laser technology. The goal, as detailed on its website, is to achieve high-resolution observations of the 3D structure of the Earth. Thanks to its reach, it can map even remote forest areas.
“The ISS is making orbits along the Earth without stopping. And our GEDI satellite emits laser pulses all the time,” Adrián Pascual, a professor at the University of Maryland and part of GEDI, explains to the BBC. When that pulse of energy reaches the Earth, it hits the first element it finds, which is the treetops, and continues to progress until it hits the ground.”
Thanks to its sensor, the team is able to measure the difference between the tops of the trees and the ground, a valuable piece of information that is used to study tree cover. “Thus, we are capable of estimating vegetation levels and that gives us an idea not only of the height of the forest, but also of its structural complexity”, highlights the expert in mapping and management of forest ecosystems.
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