Defending America by helping the world with SERVIR

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The earthquake earlier this year in Nepal was a disaster of countrywide proportions.  Helping the victims required an international response. It also needed the work done in Huntsville's National Space Science Technology Center.

In the SERVIR lab, researchers, teachers and students from UAH, along with NASA scientists provided help to emergency personnel working in a desolated countryside.

"People needed to know what roads were blocked, where landslides had occurred, what buildings were damaged. And those very high-resolution images provided that perspective from space," says Eric Anderson, a researcher for UAH  working with SERVIR.

The images used in the Nepal quake response, and in fact for all of SERVIR's work come from NASA's 24 Earth-observing satellites.  "It's an example of from Huntsville to the world," says SERVIR Director Dan Irwin.  The researchers for SERVIR take the satellite data, compile it and share it with three existing Hubs.  They're located in Central America, Africa and the Himalayan area of Asia. With the U.S. Agency for International Development as a partner, the aim of the project is simple. "So governments around the world can better understand what's happening in their countries, so they ultimately make better decisions, whether it be related to a disaster, food security, or weather related issues.  Really it's to help them," said Irwin.

UAH Researchers Eric Anderson and Africa Flores actually met and got married while working with SERVIR.  They're responsible for two of the Hubs SERVIR is using right now.  Africa says the project is something of a justification. ""Oh that's why it's important to work in space. We get a different point of view of how we are affecting our Earth, and what the processes of the Earth that are affecting us," says Africa.

Seen from space, Earth is an awe-inspiring sight. Unfortunately droughts, floods, and other disasters are all too commonplace.  SERVIR gets its name from the Spanish word for "to serve."  "What we're able to do is really use NASA's constellation of satellites and the unique vantage point of space to make the world a better place," said Irwin.

SERVIR will be adding a fourth world Hub next year, and the plans call for a total of six by 2018.  Headquarters for the world project will remain in Huntsville.