Their classrooms study Earth sciences, decide what part of the Earth they'd like to photograph and when, then we provide a web site that allows them to do all the appropriate calculations to figure out exactly when the station is going to be going over that part of the Earth and then command the camera to take a picture at that second. And we enable all this through a pretty darn sophisticated mission control center that we run at University of California, San Diego,
and gives undergraduates a great work experience and opportunity working with engineers at JPL and at Johnson Space Center. And also, more importantly, I think, gives middle school students around the country an opportunity to take their own pictures of Earth and study Earth from space in a way that would have been impossible just a couple of decades ago. In the 25 years since my first flight, we've learned a lot about the planet. A lot of that knowledge has come as a result of our presence in space. All you need to do is take a look at some of the photos taken 25 years ago and compare them to photographs being taken by astronauts today or satellites today.
What you see are very visible changes. You can see mountains that used to be snow-covered that aren't anymore. You can see glaciers that have disappeared. You see hurricanes that are more intense. You see these changes all around the globe. The key to global change is the word global. We're seeing it everywhere around the planet, not just at the poles.
There are some parts of the planet that are getting less water and are going to be more prone to drought. There are other parts of the planet that are measurably getting more water. They're more prone to floods. It was technology that drove those changes. Our use of fuels, our ability to heat our homes and light our cities, has led to the increased CO2 in the atmosphere. But I think that now technology offers us the opportunity to develop solutions. It's the science and technology, as well as our own habits, that can really help us solve the problem that we've created for ourselves.
I'm optimistic that we're going to be fine, but now is the time and it's important to be starting. The next generation, the kids in school today, know a lot about climate change. They're concerned about it, they're interested in it. They want information about it, and they see it as a challenge to them, to help develop those solutions, and help understand the science, develop the new technologies.
And it's really true that the kids are so committed to this that it's making science and engineering cool again. So I think that the future of the planet is in our hands to help enable the scientists and engineers, technologists of the future, to take on this challenge. We've caught onto the problem in time and now it's just a matter of committing ourselves to the solutions, and the space program and space technology is going to be critical as we approach this challenge of the twenty-first century.
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology
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