Satellite images, like the ones from China, are providing a unique perspective that could aid efforts to find a missing Malaysia jetliner. The USGS EROS Center is at the heart of the mission, thanks to its participation in an international charter for space and major disasters.
"The Government of China sent in a request to the organization asking for help trying to locate the missing airliner," Disaster Response Coordinator Brenda Jones said.
Once Chinese officials used the charter, Jones and her team went to work coordinating satellites to get better images of the area. They are trained to handle all types of international disasters, big or small.
"We respond to a lot of big disasters. Typhoon Haiyan we responded to, the Japanese tsunami and earthquake. Actually, the charter supported Hurricane Katrina back in 2005," Jones said.
Jones is able to gather images of an area before and after a major event, giving crews on the ground a better look at what has changed. This case is providing its own set of challenges.
"People are looking for anything they see in the water right now. They spotted a large oil slick that was in the news. They tested the oil and determined it wasn't from an aircraft. So, it was deceiving, but it was something they had to check out," Jones said.
Even though the images coming from EROS have not produced a solid lead yet, Jones hopes that the work here eventually offers some answers.
"I can only hope and pray somebody sees something that will help all these families figure out what happened to their loved ones," Jones said.
No image analysis is actually done at EROS, but Jones says that she still takes pride in knowing the gathered images are helping bring a positive end to some major disasters.