SAR Scientist Highlights Archive

June 2021


JUL 2021 -- Rod Boyce

Howard Zebker, PhD

If you want an idea of how long Howard Zebker has been immersed professionally with satellites and satellite data, just look up the launch date of NASA’s Seasat mission.

June 28, 1978.

Seasat was one of the first Earth-observing satellites and was designed to provide data about the planet’s oceans. It was the first time that NASA sent a synthetic aperture radar into orbit.

Seasat didn’t last long, at just 105 days due to a catastrophic onboard short circuit, but its SAR system and other instrumentation provided more ocean data than had been gathered in the previous 100 years of shipboard investigations.

And it proved the value of space-borne SAR.

Howard was deeply involved in Seasat, working on algorithms for the processors that would handle Seasat’s data and helping design the optical correlator system that would make images from the data that had been downloaded from Seasat onto magnetic tape.

Yes, magnetic tape. Also, there were notebooks — of the paper sort, not of the electronic variety — that people were still using.

“I built the ground support equipment for the radar, which included moving all of the test measurements from being done by hand and written into a notebook to a computer-controlled system that could operate the test equipment and record the results,” he wrote in one email exchange for this recollection of his work and his connection to the Alaska SAR Facility, which would later become the Alaska Satellite Facility at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

“This seems obvious and is the way things are done today, but 40-plus years ago this was one of the first times this was attempted,” he wrote.

Seasat was Howard’s first project at JPL, and it got him connected with the Alaska facility, which was one of five northern hemisphere ground stations receiving Seasat data.

“So I have used data from ASF off and on for decades,” he said. “I have been on the User Working Group and continue to rely on ASF as a source of data and other computing resources and a way to interact with the community. And that continues today.”

So you see, Howard has been around a while.

April 2021


APR 2021 -- Rod Boyce

Josef Kellndorfer, PhD

Josef Kellndorfer heartily remembers receiving computer hard drives in the mail containing the data he needed for his research in the 1990s.

Those hard drives came from the Alaska Satellite Facility (ASF), traveling the roughly 4,400 miles to Massachusetts, where he worked at the Woods Hole Research Center, now known as the Woodwell Climate Research Center. Today he is a distinguished visiting scientist at the center but maintaining a strong connection to the satellite facility.

Things have changed mightily since those hard-drive days. He now gets the data he needs from the ASF by tapping on his computer keyboard.

He has been an integral player over his years of official and unofficial connection to the ASF Distributed Active Archive Center (DAAC), which is funded by NASA and part of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute. And it has shown in the sharp increase in the number of researchers acquiring the data. They tap in from around the globe.

Josef is among the people who they can thank for that.

January 2021


JAN 2021 - LJ Evans

Paul Rosen, PhD

Dr. Paul Rosen is Project Scientist for the NASA-ISRO SAR (NISAR) mission. NISAR will measure Earth’s changing ecosystems, dynamic land surfaces, and ice masses, providing critical measurements for carbon cycle modeling, natural hazards research, sea level rise, groundwater exploitation, and more. With its all-weather, day/night, multi-frequency, polarimetric capability, NISAR will also support a host of other applications.

Dr. Rosen is applying 35 years of experience in Earth and planetary radar remote sensing to guiding NISAR science and the potential benefits and impact of these data in the science and applications community. This entails interacting with scientists, engineers, managers, and the public, at all levels and in many capacities. He expects NISAR to have a major impact on how science and applications are developed using synthetic aperture radar (SAR) data, noting that NISAR will provide the world with an unprecedented source of data, processing tools, and educational materials. NASA’s Alaska Satellite Facility Distributed Active Archive Center (ASF DAAC) will take a leading role in NISAR data distribution and education.

August 2020


AUG 2020 - Fritz Freudenberger

Bernd Scheuchl, PhD

Bernd Scheuchl brings more than 25 years of experience using synthetic aperture radar remote sensing data in both industry and academia to his role as the chair of ASF’s User Working Group. As leader of the advisory board, he helps shape ASF’s role as a NASA Distributed Active Archive Center, ensuring the data are accessible for all users. Scheuchl works to coordinate ASF’s support of the upcoming NASA/ISRO SAR mission (NISAR) through development of new SAR techniques and transformative technology. As a researcher, his team’s work is at the forefront of using SAR data to study Antarctica, including producing its first continent-wide ice velocity map.

February 2020


FEB 2020 - Nettie La Belle-Hamer

Dr. Nettie La Belle-Hamer

As Director of ASF, Dr. Nettie La Belle-Hamer’s mission is to support and mentor her team of driven professionals as leaders in remote sensing and data accessibility. She applies her research background in space physics to guide the facility as it provides high-quality data to meet the evolving needs of its users. Dr. La Belle-Hamer has been a part of ASF for 19 years and was appointed Director in 2002. She is also Deputy Director of the Geophysical Institute, where she works to develop and expand the capabilities of both organizations.

October 2019


OCT 2019 - Fritz Freudenberger

Franz Meyer, PhD

As ASF Chief Scientist, Franz J. Meyer leverages almost two decades of remote sensing research experience to act as the interface between ASF and the scientific community. 

Meyer has spent his career working with space agencies around the world to develop processing techniques and methods for synthetic aperture radar, or SAR, data. These techniques have been used to explore signals related to surface deformation such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Recently, his research has expanded into the development of remote sensing-based hazard monitoring. He has led trainings around the world to help governments and organizations increase their capacity for radar techniques and hopes to transform SAR into a tool to meaningfully influence people’s lives on a daily basis.

Read more about Franz and his data chat on Earthdata

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