Viewing the Earth: The Role of Satellite Earth Observations and
Global Monitoring in International Affairs

6-7 June 2000

Symposium Summary Prepared by Ms. Becky Jimerson

The George Washington University's Space Policy Institute and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) organized a two-day symposium highlighting the revolution in Earth observations from space, and how it is affecting the conduct of international affairs. This revolution, fueled by the expanding use of information technologies, is changing dramatically how governments, businesses, and even individuals use geospatial data in their everyday tasks. This symposium sought to reach far beyond the traditional remote sensing community to generate broader awareness of how technological advances, U.S. policy decisions, and market developments are altering the ways in which we acquire, archive, distribute, and apply Earth observations from space.
Despite the focus of recent media accounts on new, commercial high resolution systems, data from the medium and low resolution EO sensors are still of great scientific and commercial utility. This symposium explored the range of applications for EO satellite imagery in international affairs, and examined the policy issues that derive from these applications. It also provided a forum for discussing mechanisms to ensure the continuity of moderate-resolution EO systems. The following paragraphs summarize the presentations and discussions that occurred over the course of the symposium.


Welcome, Opening Remarks
In his opening remarks, Dean Harding cited the Space Policy Institute as a vibrant and important member of The George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs. Dean Harding spoke of what he considers the integral—if not always obvious—link between space policy and the broader study of international affairs. He cited, for example, the long history of aerial reconnaissance, reaching back the use of hot air balloons during the US civil war. Today's space-based capabilities—in particular, earth observation—have achieved a technological level that has led to many new uses and new political issues. During the Cold War, space-based technologies were used in pursuit of conventional security. Now, security has numerous other aspects, necessitating an examination of such varied factors as: the economy, the environment, movement of people (refugees), spread of disease, safeguarding of life and property. In this new environment, space-based systems both help address international issues and pose new challenges for the international community.

Remote Sensing and Foreign Policy
In his address at the symposium, Mr. Sandalow delivered the following assessment of the utility of remote sensing in international affairs. View speech.

Audience Questions:
Would US government policy of shutter control for commercial satellite systems be effective in protecting national security?
Mr. Sandalow noted that some companies had been critical of U.S. policy, but added that "time would tell."
Is there a possibility that the United States would provide free or low cost imagery for countries that could not afford them?
Mr. Sandalow replied that this question was highly relevant to realizing the long term benefits of remotely sensed imagery. However, he noted that though imagery costs have declined in recent years, a program of providing free data to needy users would be difficult to pay for.

Cooperation and Collaboration in International Environmental Earth Observations
Mr. Withee began with an overview of NOAA's perspectives and programs on Earth observation. NOAA's systems include both polar-orbit satellites and geostationary satellites, providing data especially useful for weather prediction and monitoring []. Its Polar-Orbiting Environmental Satellite System (POESS) cover the entire Earth daily, over a 6-hour timeframe. Its Geostationary Orbiting Environmental Satellite System (GOES) of two satellites monitors environmental conditions over the Americas between about 60 degrees north latitude to about 60 degrees south latitude. Both provide low-resolution imagery (about 1 km) highly useful to a variety of data users. NOAA and NESDIS cooperate with diverse international partners. Cooperation with global partners helps ensure continuity of satellites on orbit, better downlinks of data from satellites, and the optimal use of satellite imagery for humanitarian purposes—such as responding to disasters like volcanic eruptions, hurricanes, or fire.
While their main purpose is the study and prediction of future weather conditions, these satellites have numerous additional uses, such as providing data on ozone concentration in the upper atmosphere, supporting Department of Defense missions, monitoring the sea surface temperature, performing ice analysis, measuring vegetation, monitoring algal blooms and coral bleaching, and providing numerous disaster response, monitoring and recovery services. NOAA/NESDIS also uses commercial satellite systems when appropriate. NESDIS is examining data buying policies to ensure that it can access all types of satellite data from all sources.
NESDIS participates in a number of international and national interagency cooperative agreements. Global partnerships, such as one with Eumetsat, help the United States and Europe provide much more capability to monitor global weather and climate. In 2005, Eumetsat will assume one of the satellite orbits currently maintained by NESDIS. Doing so will ensure data continuity while reducing NOAA's costs. NESDIS participates in the Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS), in which data providing agencies and data user groups meet to coordinate satellite systems in order to ensure the optimum production and use of Earth observations data. NESDIS also takes part in the Integrated Global Observing Strategy (IGOS), a global forum where nations with space programs meet to discuss issues related to Earth observations. It also participates in the Global Disaster Information Network (GDIN), which was established in April 2000. NOAA's data are archived and made available to data users at the cost of reproduction and distribution []. Mr. Withee noted that although the wide proliferation of available sources of satellite imagery may be difficult for policy makers in some cases, it is beneficial for scientists.

The Challenge of Delivering High Quality Environmental Information for Land Applications
James Devine detailed several of USGS's tasks. Under the broad mission of understanding and describing the Earth, the USGS operates a Biological Information and Resources division, a Hydrological Information division, a Geological Information division, and a Geographic Information division []. USGS uses satellite imagery and data in a variety of ways in the course of fulfilling these missions.
The USGS has been involved with the Landsat program since the 1960s. USGS and NASA share the management of Landsat 7. Past archives of data, from Landsat 1-5, are also archived by USGS and made available for users through the USGS EROS Data Center in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. In recent years, data from SPOT and other land observing satellites have been added to the USGS archives.
USGS is also involved with the Civilian Applications Committee, which deals with use of classified systems and data for civil uses. Non-classified or formerly classified data are available, some of which could have significant value to the civilian scientific community. Maximizing the value of classified assets necessitates communication among civilian users and classified data collectors/providers.
The future of Earth observation is likely to lie in more rapid delivery of data and coverage of the Earth. Rapid delivery of data can allow for effective monitoring of natural disasters such as volcanic eruptions and forest fires.
Earth observation satellites are an essential element of global monitoring. Moderate resolution images are especially valuable, because a large archive of past imagery is available. Mr. Devine pointed to Landsat 7 as an important source of inexpensive moderate resolution imagery. As well, new analysis techniques allow for cheaper and more efficient change detection.

Douglas K. Hall focused on the importance of moderate resolution remote sensing imagery, its diverse uses, and the government-industry cooperation necessary to gather and use these data. While recent attention has focused on high-resolution satellite imagery, moderate resolution imagery remains essential, especially for environmental and natural resource monitoring. Value-added companies can increase the utility of this imagery by correcting sensor errors and analyzing the imagery.
Mr. Hall listed Essential Elements for Global Monitoring: (1) a Moderate Resolution Image (MRI) data base; (2) access to historic global land cover from MRI; (3) inexpensive MRI, now and in the future; (4) development of more effective land cover change analysis techniques; and (5) development of the Valid Multi-Stage Sampling Approach. Ensuring that moderate resolution imagery is affordable is essential and means that the government must retain a role. If the government maintains continuity of Landsat type data, then commercial firms can focus on the value-added applications. Like many other presenters, Mr. Hall essentially saw moderate resolution imagery as a public good, and a key opportunity for valuable public-private cooperation.
Moderate resolution imagery is essential for global monitoring. The historical archive of Moderate Resolution Imagery allows for change analysis. The Landsat series have been particularly important for this, providing a large archive of such imagery. This historical basis allows for analysis of land cover and land cover changes over time. Now, data from the newer Landsats such as Landsat 7 can be compared with the early-era data. The basic essential elements for successful global monitoring are possession of two data sets, and the tools for comparison and analysis. Myriad firms are developing such tools, which are beginning to make change analysis quicker and easier, and increasing the utility of moderate resolution imagery.
EarthSat [] works with several government agencies to develop data products and analysis based on remotely sensed data. Cooperative government-industry projects require specific agreements about data use and profits. For example, in the GeoCover Ortho project, NASA has an unrestricted right to copy, use and distribute all of the GeoCover Ortho products purchased under the Science Data Buy. However, EarthSat itself owns the products. EarthSat also works with NIMA on land cover classification and change.
Moderate resolution imagery is increasingly emerging as essential for earth monitoring. Government-private sector partnerships are more and more common in remote sensing. Such partnerships allow the government to benefit from growing private sector expertise, and the private sector to benefit from government-gathered imagery. For global monitoring, such alliances are key.


Satellite Monitoring of Deforestation
Dr. Janetos provided a concrete example of the utility of Earth observation data from the perspective of a non-governmental organization (NGO) by describing how WRI uses satellite-derived data, in conjunction with other sources of data, to monitor and understand changes in Earth's environment []. He noted that issues such as deforestation are especially complex, as they touch on scientific, environmental, economic, national, regional and international issues.
Global deforestation is a very real problem, with forests being lost quite rapidly, as a result of drought, agricultural clearing, and logging. Amazonia, Central Africa, and South-East Asia are the three major centers of deforestation. Forests—particularly tropical and subtropical forests—are important as biodiversity reservoirs, for their role in the planet's carbon cycle, and in local and global ecosystems, and for the livelihoods of people who live in and near them.
Understanding deforestation requires measuring how much is occurring. Tree-cover and forest extent can be readily detected from moderate resolution satellite imagery. WRI focuses on monitoring the changes, determining the causes, and predicting the consequences of deforestation. WRI documents change on local scales, and over time, and examines the causes of natural or human-caused deforestation. Satellite imagery can also help monitor change on local scales. For example, Amazonian data, overlaid with a grid of land ownership, has allowed for the monitoring of individual parcels of land.
Evidence of deforestation from satellite imagery is useful because it provides an objective source of data, either supporting or contradicting an individual nation's analysis of it own environment. WRI participates in the Global Forest Watch, an international network of groups that cooperate in using satellite and land ownership data to understand the rate of change of forest cover. This information is used to estimate the answers to two important questions: how much forest does the earth currently support? How much forest does the earth need to maintain a balanced, sustainable ecosystem?
Dr. Janetos stressed that not only does remote sensing support scientific studies of deforestation, but it also provides important information for policy makers. It is important to enhance the application of satellite data, and to support basic science. There should be an effort to extend the lessons learned through science to the policy community. U.S. and international information policies need to support public use of and access to useful scientific data. Satellite information is useful at a variety of resolution levels. Moderate-resolution imagery, such as that from Landsat 7, should be considered a public good, made available to the public as close to free as possible. A commitment to the continuation of Landsat-type data should remain an integral part of the US space program.

Monitoring Natural Resource Changes in Senegal with Four Decades of Satellite Imagery
Mr. Tappan discussed the role of satellite imagery in the long-term monitoring of Senegal, and of natural and human Senegalese environmental features. Senegal has a diverse landscape, and has undergone significant changes over the last half century. Monitoring of the environment is particularly important because of the close relationship between a healthy ecology and a healthy economy.
In mapping Senegal, Mr. Tappan and his team used three levels of data collection: satellites, aircraft, and ground-based sensors. This project made significant use of declassified imagery. For example, the imagery collected by the Corona satellites provides full coverage of Senegal from 1960 on. They also took into account Senegal's dramatic population growth (from 1 million in 1900 to 9 million in 1990), the resultant expansion of agriculture, and the effects of several recent droughts. Ground level assessment is an important part of this program; data for this aspect are provided by multiple ground monitoring stations. Interviews with local individuals also provided valuable information for understanding why human patterns of land use have changed over time.
Satellite imagery provides a graphic record of the dramatic and often disturbing changes in Senegal's environment. Mr. Tappan displayed satellite images directly illustrating the changes in land cover and land use over several periods: a comparison of area of forested land in 1965 and 1994; the impacts of the droughts of 1983 and 1996; the size and population of Dakar in 1988 and 1997; the impact of overgrazing in pastureland.
The results of this program have helped shape Senegal's management of the environment. There have been efforts to make agriculture more diverse and sustainable, to stabilize coastal dunes, to protect remaining forest areas, and to spread awareness about environmental issues. This program has, therefore, had significant scientific and policy applications. More information is available at and

Remote Sensing in Support of Biodiversity
Conservation International is an NGO with representation in over 25 nations worldwide focusing on the identification and protection of biodiversity hotspots and critical tropical ecosystems []. A high level of threat/loss/fragmentation and a high number of species found only in a particular ecosystem (that is, endemism) are indicators for focusing on a particular ecosystem. Conservation International works closely with many groups worldwide, such as the Center for Applied Biodiversity Science, which focuses on early warning of major events, which could threaten biodiversity. Conservation International works to assess impacts of past changes and to determine current trends affecting biodiversity on local, regional, and global scales. The program focuses on building global collaboration networks, compiling and assessing extant data, generating additional data, and improving uses of satellite imagery in preservation of biodiversity.
Conservation International not only monitors biodiversity and deforestation, but also works to pinpoint indicators of future deforestation. Mr. Musinsky pointed to the benefits of remote sensing for monitoring of compliance to environmental agreements, and to assist nations achieve a sustainable course of development. Conservation International also has a significant focus on putting remote sensing data into a form where it can be more easily used and distributed. Mr. Musinsky noted that remote sensing is becoming an increasingly important tool in environmental analysis and protection.


Resolving the Ecuador and Peru Border Dispute
John Gates focused on how the objective and highly accurate data available from satellites [] can prove a valuable tool in the resolution of international conflicts. Ecuador and Peru share a long and highly contested border. Conflicts between the two countries have proved especially difficult to resolve because of differing interpretations of where the border actually lies. For example, the conflict of 1941 was concluded with a peace agreement between the two nations in which Peru followed one interpretation of the border's location while Ecuador followed another.
In recent years, however, satellite technology has allowed for more accurate mapping of the Ecuadorian-Peruvian border region. Both nations have been committed to resolving their difficulties, and have proved willing to use new tools as they became available. Aerial over flights initially provided clearer views of the terrain. The ability to image the disputed area from space, combined with the advent of GPS technology has further aided in resolving this conflict. Different satellite data and software analysis programs have proved to have significant utility. Data from the Canadian RadarSat satellite have been especially useful because synthetic aperture radar sensors can pierce through the clouds that often cover the region. GPS technology has also proved especially important, because it allowed for highly accurate mapping of the actual location of the border on the ground and the placement of border markers.
The advanced space-based technology used in this example did not solve the Ecuador-Peru conflict, but it did provide an important tool, that, combined with the desire to resolve the problem, proved enormously successful.

Resolving Disputes in the South China Sea
John Baker focused on how the use of space-based remote sensing, particularly high-resolution remote sensing, can bring greater understanding of events in areas of potential conflict. His presentation focused on the use of high-resolution imagery, which has recently become available from commercial sources, in the examination of the South China Sea and the disputed Spratley Islands. The Spratley Islands themselves are small and relatively unappealing, many of them little more than coral reefs only above sea level at low tide. However, their locale in the South China Sea, an area believed to contain significant oil and gas reserves, makes these islands potentially valuable and highly disputed. Mainland China, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam all claim some or all of the Spratley Islands.
Numerous other nations could be indirectly affected by any conflict in this region, for in addition to raising the worry about a wider regional conflict, conflict over control and occupation of the Spratleys would disrupt shipping lanes used by many nations. The United States, as well, has an interest in the South China Sea, in part because of its use of the shipping lanes, but also because several of its allies would be directly or indirectly affected by conflict in this region.
Satellite imagery has provided a way to monitor the events in the South China Sea. The images provided through this increased transparency have, in some cases, raised concerns about what nations are doing there. China had earlier claimed that its fishermen had built shelters on islands to protect themselves. However, satellite, as well as aircraft imagery has shown that these fishermen's huts are suspiciously large and complex. The proliferation of the ability to access satellite imagery from several imagery providers has begun to add significant transparency to the rather murky claims and counterclaims that have characterized the conflicts in the South China Sea. Satellite imagery allows for change detection, and high-resolution imagery allows for accurate analysis of what is being built at various locations.
Several of the nations involved in this dispute have begun to use remotely sensed data to promote transparency, in hopes of managing their differences. There are increasing attempts to use cooperative monitoring to monitor changes in an effort to reduce tensions. Mr. Baker noted that commercial data is especially significant in this type of situation, because it can be shared among nations without concerns over classification. As well, satellite data provides a more objective source of information about events.
At this point, it is not clear how effective the greater transparency that satellite imagery provides will be in decreasing the chances of conflict in the South China Sea. It is clear that remote sensing has changed the dynamics of the disputes in a region of high interest to the United States.

Making the Data Useful: A Panel Discussion
[Please note that the summaries of the panel discussions should not be assumed to include direct quotes.]

Fuller—Remotely sensed data are potentially very useful and in recent years we have seen the beginning evidence of that usefulness. Indonesia, for example, has derived a number of benefits from remote sensing. In 1997 and 1998, remote sensing was used to evaluate and locate the forest fires then devastating the nation. Remote sensing was used to monitor smoke, fires, and the resultant deforestation. Data from several satellite systems were used, including the NOAA Polar Orbiters, Landsat, SPOT, and RadarSat.
There are increasing uses for remote sensing data, of all types and resolutions, worldwide. For example, marine environmental assessment of coral reefs, sea vegetation, sea surface temperature, oil spills, waves, and ocean color/pollution level, can be done with SPOT, RadarSat, European Remote Sensing Satellite, and Terra, among others. Other systems, such as Ikonos, are increasingly important for finding areas with important natural resources. For example, in Papua New Guinea, satellite data not only have helped locate potential mineral sources, but have also helped monitor compliance with environmental standards.
Thomas—It is important to note that, over time, new benefits and uses are continuing to emerge, from federal investments made years ago.
Roeder—One of the challenges is to deliver data quickly to people who need satellite imagery in responding to natural disasters, especially to people in lesser developed countries (LDCs). The question is how to connect the world to the increasing amounts of data being gathered. Nations such as Turkey are extremely interested in data regarding volcanoes and earthquakes. One possible mechanism for distributing data in a timely fashion is through the Global Disaster Information Network (GDIN).
Fuller—One of the problems with remote sensing is that it can be over-promoted as a cure all. Yet there remain problems both with data distribution and with a lack of trained imagery analysts to interpret the data.
Roeder—It is essential to understand the needs and priorities of the users and potential users of remotely sensed data. Data providers need to take these trends and priorities into account as they gather data. It is important to realize that education of the users will take a certain amount of time.
Thomas—NASA has made numerous efforts to educate the data user. Nevertheless, NASA is primarily an R&D institution, and does not focus primarily on distributing the data it collects. That is, it has a different model than that followed by such organizations as USGS. In its outreach programs, NASA has found a number of cultural and institutional barriers in the distribution and use of data.
Fuller—It may be important for NASA to hire social scientists and other non-technical personnel to deal with these issues.
Thomas—NASA certainly needs to understand the international and policy environments, and to focus on training people to use satellite data more effectively.
Roeder—NASA needs to work with other organizations, which it has been doing more aggressively in recent years. This is especially relevant on defense and disaster management tasks.
Audience—One thing to realize is that many people, farmers, for example, are not particularly interested in the satellite images, but instead in how the information derived from these images can help them succeed. As well, for users of satellite imagery, trust in the provider is very important.
Audience—The Internet is providing a very useful way for people to access data.
Roeder—One problem is that even when data are available, it is difficult to put them into formats that average people can use and understand. There is definitely a need to conduct training in local regions. While the Internet is becoming a very useful tool, 97% of the world is not yet connected to the Internet. One important step is to give agencies such as NASA a list of organizations to distribute data to in the case of disaster.


Applying NASA's Earth Observing System to International Environmental Problems

Dr. Asrar focused on NASA's extensive system of Earth observation satellites, and the ways in which the data from these satellites are being used []. NASA's goal is to achieve a scientific understanding of Earth systems, and their response to natural and human-induced changes. This understanding will allow for more accurate prediction of climate, weather, and natural hazards, today and in the future. Thus, the aim is to observe, analyze, and try to form models for various systems. In this way changes can be noticed and predicted, and their impacts analyzed. NASA is working to expand and accelerate the understanding of the significant ecological and social benefits of earth science and technology in order to serve important national priorities.
NASA works with numerous partners, both domestic and international, in its study of the Earth's complex systems. The changes in the Earth's ecological systems are not only scientifically interesting, but have wide-ranging and immediate consequences for Earth's inhabitants. NASA's expertise was originally in the space-based part of earth observation, but has evolved over the years. Mr. Asrar explained how NASA's newer satellite systems image more of the Earth, and provide not only visual data but other types of data. NASA's goal is to be able to examine every aspect of the Earth's systems from space.
A global examination of the planet is essential and relevant, because it allows for assessment of local and global changes in land cover and environmental conditions, for weather prediction and analysis, for the tracking of the relationships between diseases and climate, and also for numerous practical applications. For example, predictions of El Niņo's effects have allowed farmers to adjust the crops they planted in order not to have their crops wiped out by the resultant weather pattern.
International partnerships are an important part of NASA's Earth observation programs. NASA works with the World Climate Research Program, the International Geosphere/Biosphere Program, the World Meteorological Organization, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and with many more partners and global networks. NASA focuses on providing high quality images and objective scientific understanding, which can then be used in support of improving public policies. NASA and its partners perform and support research projects that use the data obtained from satellites. As a science agency, NASA is able to devote considerable expertise and resources to issues such as El Niņo and ozone depletion.
Following his talk, Dr. Asrar responded to several questions from the audience. Asked about whether NASA's earth observation enterprise has an international policy aspect, he replied that while NASA's earth observation does, to some extent, touch on policy issues; NASA is more focused on data collection, analysis and distribution. NASA tries to leave the policy implications to other US agencies more appropriate to deal with such issues. Dr. Asrar also explained that it is important to realize that NASA and the United States are only a small part of a growing number of space agencies worldwide working in Earth observation. NASA's aim is to ensure that the United States has the best instrumentation possible on orbit.

Landsat 7: Options for a Successor

Dr. Lauer discussed the past, present and future uses of the Landsat system []. The Landsat satellite carries a moderate-resolution sensor, with resolutions from 15 to 30 meters. Landsat is often used for environmental monitoring purposes. Landsat 7, the latest in the series, was launched on April 15, 1999, into polar orbit. Landsat has a number of international ground stations, part of the goal of maximizing data availability worldwide. The satellite is capable of collecting approximately 250 scenes (185 km by 185 km) a day and the EROS Data Center [] can process about 100 per day for distribution. Corrected, georeferenced Landsat data cost $600 per scene (less in large numbers). Of the data that have been purchased, government purchases equal about 27%, industry, 23%, academia, 18%, and international buyers, 32%.
The next step in the Landsat program is not yet clear. Landsats 1 through 3 were government- owned and operated, and were fairly successful. Attempts to commercialize the Landsat program with Landsats 4 & 5, were not very successful; they were plagued by poorly defined goals, industrial barriers, an overly competitive relationship with industry, slow technological advancement, and insufficient research and educational applications. USGS, which operates Landsat 7, and distributes the data, has worked hard to cooperate with industry, while at the same time, maximizing educational outreach and technological advancement.
The question facing USGS and other interested parities is what the nature of the next generation system will be. It could be wholly private, a private sector/government joint project, a wholly government project, or a project with international involvement. There is also the possibility of ending the Landsat program after Landsat 7 fails. Dr. Lauer stated the hope that no matter which option is chosen, data continuity with Landsat-quality data will be maintained. He also noted that international cooperation is becoming more and more important. When close coordination is maintained, nationally and internationally, partners can achieve the best data collection and analysis for the least amount of investment.

The Future of Moderate-Resolution Earth Monitoring From Space

Pettinger—When people talk about moderate resolution remote sensing they are usually referring to resolutions in a range that encompasses the Landsat system (10-50 m). In the Landsat program, one satellite is on orbit at a time, and funding reaches only about 5 years ahead. There is a high degree of uncertainty in funding and in policy stance toward Landsat, which has been the subject of experimentation with privatization. It is important to note Dr. Janetos's earlier comment about moderate resolution imagery being a public good. As well, Mr. Hall in his presentation stressed the utility of moderate resolution data for gaining regional perspective.
Lauer—Medium resolution imagery does not have a "champion" within the Administration or Congress to guarantee its funding and continuity. Today, the relationship between USGS and NASA is quite successful. It is essential to balance public and private needs and interests.
Williams—The continuity of Landsat type data is required by law (the Land remote Sensing Policy Act of 1992) and required by the need to support scientific investigations of Earth's environmental systems []. Landsat scale data are probably not commercially viable, but this doesn't mean that no money from Landsat went into the private sector. Building and launching Landsat 7 cost $630 million, and of this only 4% stayed within NASA. The rest went to private contractors to build and launch the satellite, and construct the ground segment. Keeping this type of satellite under government operation may be necessary if data prices are to stay low. NASA uses the data to support scientific studies and develop methods to improve the applications of remotely sensed data.
Koger—Resource 21 has alliances with Boeing, Farmland, BAE, and ITT. It wants to market the data derived from satellite imagery, mainly to commercial agricultural interests. Resource 21 is an information and imagery business that uses remote sensing to serve a variety of applications needs, including agriculture, renewable resources, and national security. Several important trends that commercial and governmental actors need to keep in mind are: that the world population continues to grow; that the increasing population has a significant environmental impact; that the world has become, in many ways, more politically risky; and that science and defense budgets are often decreasing. Resource 21 intends to take these trends into account in its business. The satellite systems will be similar to Landsat, and include advanced technologies for collection and processing of data. Resource 21 will help provide for the continuity of Landsat-scale data. The business plan for Resource 21 does not depend on revenue from the government, but it is likely that the government will buy a significant amount of this data. Resource 21 is hoping to use many of Landsat 7's advances to operate cheaply and efficiently.
Mitchell—Remote sensing and land cover mapping have their own peculiar economics. NOAA's satellites have a resolution of about 1 kilometer. This resolution is good for countrywide and global change examination. Landsat imagery is about 30 m resolution. This kind of resolution is useful on a more national level. Older Landsat imagery cost $4,000 a scene to purchase, but the information derived from the scene cost about $20,000 a scene to generate (including the image cost). Information from Landsat 7 data costs $2,500 a scene after analysis ($600 plus value-added costs). Now with cheaper data, satellite imagery can be used more broadly. For example, satellite data can now be used, not just to map, but also to conduct detailed change analysis.
Audience—Have there been increased business opportunities since the 1970s?
Williams—We are all working to increase scene collection and lower costs. We expect to see more interest in data as time goes on. I hope that Resource 21's plans prove viable, because that will help ensure data continuity.
Koger—We definitely value cooperation, with NASA and other organizations. The current, close to free, data policy is very important. The cheapness of Landsat type data can help Resource 21 provide data to its customers for a more reasonable price. There is a very real need to train imagery analysts and inexpensive imagery will assist that effort.
Audience—You talk about Resource 21 removing the need for Landsat 8, but Landsats resolution is 30 meters, and Resource 21's planned resolution is 8 meters- so how can they be interchangeable?
Koger—Resource 21 will work to meet the requirements of Landsat continuity, even if it means acquiring broader resolution imagery.
Mitchell—I think most people in this field definitely hope that NASA and the government will purchase data from private ventures. There is no incompatibility in the government buying data from commercial providers.
William—While commercial actors certainly have a significant and increasing role to play, ensuring continuous and low-cost data may very well require continued government involvement.

The Challenges and Opportunities of High-Resolution Commercial Satellites in International Affairs

Professor Williamson provided an overview of some of the key themes and complexities in Earth observation. Today's technologies are more and more integrated. GIS, GPS and video technologies are often used together. Analytic and display software is becoming increasingly inexpensive and more capable. GPS technology is being integrated into large numbers of products. Many of today's rapidly advancing technologies are even more powerful when used in conjunction with each other. The complementary nature of information technology, incorporating a variety of geospatial information is a growing trend. This has contributed to significant growth in the value-added industry. People are willing to pay more to receive, not just the raw data, but also the interpretation and analysis of that data. There is also a convergence between the requirements of the national security community and the commercial marketplace that is helping to spur the value-added industry.
Access to a wide variety of image sources is contributing to a growing world transparency. Transparency's potential influence on international affairs is not a new phenomenon. After all, access to imagery from aerial over flights played a key role in the Cuban missile crisis. Today's satellite Earth observation extends the ability to observe possible treaty violations and other activities to non-governmental organizations as well as to a wide variety of governments. That increase in access to information can make decisions easier to make, but it can also speed up the need to respond beyond the capacity of the political process. Today's proliferation of capabilities means that Earth imagery and data are also available to both friends and foes of the United States.
Because other nations have developed technological capabilities very close to those held by the United States, no one nation or bloc will be able to control the flow of data and the information that can be derived from them. It is therefore very likely that the never-tested US policy of shutter control will have limited efficacy. We can hope that the growing regime of "mutual assured observation" will allow nations to improve insight into each other's actions, and result in a lowering of international tensions. Today, non-governmental organizations are becoming more significant players in transparency and earth observation. Particularly notable are organizations such as the Institute for Science and International Security, which has examined the North Korean nuclear facilities using satellite imagery, and the Federation of American Scientists, which is buying and publishing one meter imagery of various sensitive regions, including the top secret US facility, so-called Area 51. The new accessibility of satellite data has allowed state, as well as national, governments to purchase such data. This has already led to confrontations, such as in India, where a state's purchase of imagery (of itself) was contested by the national government. The spreading access to high resolution imagery is certain to alter patterns of interaction, both among nations, and between nations and private corporations. It is becoming obvious that there are broad public good uses for satellite data, both high and moderate resolution. Not all of these uses are obvious today, but there is a promising start visible today, and an excellent potential for the future.

Earth Observations/International Policy

Florini—The accessibility of satellite imagery is part of a larger trend throughout the world []. There is today a tension between secrecy and data openness. Remotely sensed data will make certain types of secrets harder to keep. Politically, the current era is marked by the growth of freedom of information laws in more nations. Environmental regulations and arms control agreements depend implicitly on transparency. There are increasing demands for economic and financial transparency.
Trends in favor of transparency include: that secrecy tends to be the refuge of scandals and incompetents; and that transparency can have a stabilizing impact on many types of relationships. Trends in favor of secrecy include: that familiarity can breed contempt- i.e., in the case of true animosity, transparency will just make attack easier; the possibility of the misuse or misinterpretation of information; the fact that there are legitimate reasons to keep secrets; and that transparency is expensive, and may be too expensive to have a significant impact on global affairs. The question we are faced with, then, is which is winning- transparency or secrecy? Which should? At this point it is hard to say which trend is winning. As far as which should win, transparency has more credible arguments on its side. The burden of proof should be on those who wish to keep secrets.
Byrnes—The Landsat system has a long history of international involvement. Landsat has had international ground receiving stations for 30 years. Initially, data access was very liberal. Under Landsat's commercial operation, some international ground stations began to charge a fair amount of money in order to support their operation. It has proved quite challenging to deal with access fees. Ground stations have limitations dictated by function and policy. Ground stations have a limited capacity to download, process and store data. It is essential to increase training on a global basis. We are currently not doing a very good job getting the data into the hands of the consumers.
Stryker—Data policies need to be consolidated. Currently there are several policies, civil, commercial, and military. For example, NOAA is responsible for licensing civilian commercial satellites according to provisions in the 1992 Land Remote Sensing Policy Act []. As well, there are numerous international policies, especially as, in many other nations the line between public and private is quite different than in the United States.
Turner—One of the key questions is how to get environmental data to NGOs and others who could best use the data. NASA's early theory was basically, if you build it, they will use it, but there is a need to put an effort into use/ distribution, as well as into collection.
Audience—One example of the complications in data policy is that, in nations like Egypt and India, governmental permission is required before buying Ikonos and other high resolution data.
Florini—Many nations do not even have well defined data policies at this point. In some more centralized states, such as India, it is necessary to go through a government agency to make use of satellite data. It may be possible to restrict access to data, but it will not be possible to prevent access to data. There is a real need for international discussion to address international data policy. The United States has worked to dominate data policy and push for transparency, which may, in the end cause a backlash. It is important to realize that nature of information technology does not fit with national borders. Remote sensing is just one example of this new trans-national transparency.
Audience—Would it be possible for one source, for example, one nation, to buy up all the imagery of its own, or another nation?
Panel—This would be extremely expensive, but there is no law against it. However, data sold to one customer can also be sold to another. Selling the same scene to more than one customer is an important part of commercial strategy.
Question—In biotechnology, commercialization has led to more secrecy. How do we know that a similar situation would not arise in satellite remote sensing?
Panel—It is possible that companies will initially be able to exploit the resources. However, there are already some laws governing key aspects of remote sensing, such as sensed state laws. Hopefully, even if commercialization initially allows the exploitation of resources, policy will catch up eventually.

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