Astronaut Joe Abaca Carried Smokey The Bear With Him To The ISS
NASA and the U.S. Forest Service signed a Space Act Agreement last week that unites the two agencies in raising awareness about the importance of fire prevention and fire safety. This partnership will highlight areas of common interest in wildfires, forest and plant growth research and materials science. The joint effort will be enhanced by the personal interest of astronaut Joe Acaba, a flight engineer currently aboard the International Space Station. Acaba is an avid outdoorsman who has focused much of his career on the environment. He selected Smokey Bear, the forest service's mascot, as the zero-gravity indicator and talisman for his Soyuz flight to the orbiting laboratory last month.
"I've always enjoyed the outdoors and our natural environment," said Acaba. "When you view our planet from space, it only makes you appreciate it more. I hope that sharing my experiences aboard the space station will help others understand the importance of protecting our planet and protecting ourselves from Earth's natural tendencies."
Throughout the human spaceflight program, imagery of Earth has been a valuable asset to researchers on the ground. The dramatic views of smoke plumes and fire damage to communities from 240 miles above bring unparalleled perspectives of the effects of wildfire and the value of careful forestry resource management to people around the world. The images also help firefighters combat fires more effectively and help researchers learn about wildfire behavior and patterns.
Crew observations and imagery of the Earth from space are just some areas that will be emphasized. Space station experiments that focus on improved understanding of plant growth and physiology, as well as combustion and materials science, also will have a prominent role in related outreach opportunities and events.
NASA and the U.S. Forest Service have worked together for decades in many areas of research and technology development, and the forest service provided invaluable assistance to NASA during recovery operations following the loss of space shuttle Columbia in the heavily wooded areas of East Texas.