MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. (KGO) -- A shift over 10 years in the making comes at a pivotal time for NASA as climate change redefines its mission and transition to commercialization.
The agency's top two administrators, Bill Nelson, who conducted experiments aboard the space shuttle, and former astronaut Pam Melroy believe NASA will make a difference in monitoring wildfires and managing the response.
"What people don't realize is NASA is the eyes in the sky right now," said Melroy during a visit with scientists and engineers at NASA Ames Tuesday morning. "The satellites we have in orbit looking at the Earth 24/7 are giving us the information that decision-makers need about the changes in our planet."
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The aerial response has become critical as wildfires can explode by thousands of acres quickly. But as more aircraft and drones launch, NASA is trying to address the need for better air and ground traffic control systems, even when GPS or internet is lost. Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, who represents Silicon Valley, reacted to the briefing.
"This demonstration here and what's being worked on with the U.S. Fire Service, with CALFIIRE is nothing short of extraordinary," Eshoo said.
NASA hardware and software are also monitoring drought as part of its climate change mission.
Airline passengers will also see good news coming out of NASA Ames, especially if their departing flight has ever been delayed at the gate.
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NASA Ames showed off a ramp control tower simulator and new software that manages aircraft gate departures so planes don't end up burning fuel and generating emissions while waiting for clearance to take off. It's designed to keep aircraft in motion, not idle.
"Push back from the gate, onto the ramp, onto the taxiway, to the end of the runway, take off, not stopping... think how much fuel you'll save," said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson.
The software has been undergoing development and testing with the assistance of American Airlines at Charlotte Douglas International Airport in North Carolina. The plan is to deploy it at over two dozen of the nation's busiest airports.
This is a new NASA for which "moonshot" projects have a climate change focus.