NASA proposes satellite partnership with Brazil to halt Amazon deforestation

On Wednesday, Bill Nelson, NASA Administrator, visited the Brazilian space research centre, INPE, proposing an extension of satellite partnerships with the United States. The aim of the partnership is to enhance the monitoring and prevention of the ongoing destruction of the Amazon rainforest.

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NASA’s latest project, a satellite named NISAR, will have the capability to render detailed images of activity below the forest canopy, even identifying cases of undergrowth burning that could ultimately result in the death of larger trees. Scheduled for a January launch in collaboration with India, the new satellite could greatly enhance the ability to accurately track and prevent illegal deforestation activities.

At a press conference held at the INPE in Sao Jose dos Campos, Nelson stated, “It is going to be able to look through the canopy of the jungle so that we can see if someone has burned the undergrowth and that would ultimately kill the big trees.”

The proposal came during a tour of the INPE headquarters by Nelson, led by Science Minister Luciana Santos. Santos took the opportunity to outline the details of Brazil’s space programme, including their series of satellite launches in partnership with China since 1999, which primarily monitor agricultural and environmental factors.

Despite Brazil’s extensive use of satellite imagery to monitor the Amazon, obtaining accurate and timely images has been hampered by regular cloud cover. The proposed partnership and the launch of the NISAR satellite could offer a substantial leap forward in these monitoring efforts.

Nelson, who served as a U.S. senator prior to his NASA appointment, met with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in Brasilia on Monday. “I thanked the president for his continuous effort to save the Amazon rainforest,” he told reporters after the meeting.

A long-time observer of environmental issues, Nelson recalls seeing the devastation of the rainforest from his spacecraft window during a space mission 37 years ago. The different colours visible from space bore testament to the extent of deforestation.

Nelson affirmed that the satellites planned for launch next year would provide an “ability to understand what is happening” in the rainforest. This statement was made during his visit to Brazilian planemaker Embraer in Sao Jose dos Campos, where he toured the production line of their narrow-body commercial E-Jets.

The NASA chief’s South American visit is set to continue, with scheduled stops in Argentina and Colombia later this week. His visit underscores the increased international interest in curbing the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest and the crucial role that technological advancements could play in this fight.

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