With the support of technology created by UITS Research Technologies, NASA’s longest-running airborne mission is gathering and processing more information than ever.
For the past 10 years, IU and the Center for Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets (CReSIS) at the University of Kansas have worked with NASA’s Operation IceBridge to collect data about polar ice caps. IU provides IT support for the mission and assists in processing the enormous amounts of data it generates, helping improve the models of the physical interactions of glaciers, sea ice, and ice sheets for scientists to study. The mission offers unprecedented 3-D detail and critical data used to predict polar response to climate change and resulting sea-level rise.
When Operation IceBridge flies, the plane is outfitted with a supercomputer called Forward Observer—specially designed by Research Technologies’ experts to capture the data streams and create multiple copies, eliminating the risk of losing valuable data to unexpected, harsh elements in the arctic and Antarctic fields. It also gives scientists nearly instant access to preliminary images allowing for the possibility of in-flight adjustments of a planned route if problems or opportunities arise.
The data is later transferred to IU’s Data Capacitor Wide Area Network 2 for researchers to access. Once the data is processed, images showing slices of snow, ice, and bedrock are used by scientists to study the year-to-year changes in this vital part of Earth’s ecosystem.