NASA satellites to soon help curb Amazon deforestation

NASA chief says new satellites could offer an "extreme ability to understand what is happening" to the rainforest."
Loukia Papadopoulos
Representational image of the deforestation of the Amazon.jpg
Representational image of the deforestation of the Amazon.

Marcio Isensee e Sa/iStock 

NASA has offered up its satellite technology to Brazil to help monitor and prevent the destruction of the Amazon rainforest.

This is according to a report by Reuters published this Tuesday.

NASA administrator Bill Nelson made the announcement during a recent trip to Brazil where he visited the country’s space agency – the National Institute for Space Research (INPE) – in the southeastern city of Jose dos Campos.


At a news conference at INPE, Nelson described a new NASA satellite called NISAR that he said would be completed by January and would be able to capture images of what is happening in real time below the forest cover.

"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," he said according to Reuters.

NASA claims the new satellite will support a project called SERVIR Amazonia that equips scientists and decision-makers across the Amazon area with Earth science data. This makes it possible for the experts to record environmental changes in near real-time. 

The project can help scientists predict climate threats like deforestation and food insecurity and provide support to emergency workers during natural disasters.

Brazil’s space agency has already been using satellites to gather data on agricultural operations and the environment which it launched in partnership with China since 1999. 

The country relies on satellite imagery to watch over the Amazon and monitor its progression but clouds in the sky often makes it difficult for satellites to capture clear and timely images. Nelson said the satellites NASA plans to place into orbit early next year will tackle this issue by adding an "extreme ability to understand what is happening" to the rainforest."

Nelson met with President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in Brasilia whom he thanked after the meeting “for his continuous effort to save the Amazon rainforest."

Devastation evident

Nelson also shared the fact that when he flew aboard NASA’s Space Shuttle Columbia in 1986, he could distinctly notice the destruction of the rainforest by the different colors he could witness from his spacecraft window.

Back in December of 2020, a University of Florida professor predicted the large forest, often described as the Earth's lungs, will collapse by 2064. Robert Walker, a professor on the faculty of the university's Center for Latin American Studies, said the forest will end up decimated by 2064 if appropriate action is not taken.