Press Release

NOAA Satellites Help Rescue 166 People in U.S. in 2001

By SpaceRef Editor
February 17, 2002
Filed under ,

Thanks to environmental satellites
with rescue tracking capability, the Commerce
Department’s
National Oceanic
and Atmospheric Administration
and the Russian government
saved 166 lives in the U.S. waters and wilderness in 2001.

The NOAA
satellites
are part of an international Search
and Rescue Satellite-Aided Tracking Program
known as Cospas-Sarsat.
The system uses a constellation of satellites in geostationary
and polar orbits to detect and locate emergency beacons on vessels
and aircraft in distress.

Of the 166 rescues last year,
112 people were saved on the seas; 39 in the Alaska wilderness,
and 15 on downed aircraft in states around the country. A variety
of rescues took place on the seas. Engine fires, flooding, rough
seas and water spouts all caused emergencies resulting in distress
calls and rescues. In Alaska, stranded hunters and lost persons
were among those rescued. Downed aircraft incidents included
those making emergency landings and those that crashed in bad
weather.

"Our business is saving
lives," said Ajay Mehta, manager of NOAA’s Sarsat program.
"We are an international humanitarian program whose goals
and rewards are saving lives. More than 13,000 lives have been
saved worldwide since the system became operational in 1982 and
more than 4,500 in the United States alone. September of this
year marks the 20th anniversary of the first Sarsat rescue."



NOAA’s National Environmental
Satellite, Data, and Information Service
operates the U.S.
Mission Control Center in Suitland, Md., and represents the United
States in this program by providing satellites and ground equipment.

"We had an unusual rescue
last year with a bear circling a private plane that had crashed
in Alaska with two people on board," said Mehta. "These
folks were in a dangerous predicament. Yet, because there was
an emergency locator transmitter on board the aircraft that activated
upon impact, rescue authorities were able to respond to the distress
quickly. On arrival the search and rescue aircraft saw the situation
unfolding and dispatched a helicopter to retrieve the occupants
and bring them to safety.

"NOAA expects the number
of worldwide rescues for 2001 will total about 1,100-1,200. Numbers
will be available this spring, as countries around the world
report their rescues to the international Cospas-Sarsat organization.
"The average number of distress alerts continues to rise
internationally as more countries sign on to use the advantages
and benefits of the Cospas-Sarsat system," said Mehta.

NOAA’s Geostationary Operational Environmental
Satellites
can instantly
detect emergency signals. The polar-orbiting satellites in the
system detect emergency signals as they circle the Earth from
pole to pole. Emergency signals are sent to the U.S.
Mission Control Center
in Suitland, Md., then automatically
sent to rescue forces around the world. Today there are 35 countries
participating in the system.

NOAA’s National Environmental
Satellite, Data, and Information Service is the nation’s primary
source of operational space-based meteorological and climate
data. In addition to search and rescue, NOAA’s environmental
satellites are used for weather forecasting, climate monitoring,
and other environmental applications such as volcanic eruptions,
ozone monitoring, sea surface temperature measurements, and wild
fire detection. NOAA Satellite and Data Service also operates
three data centers,
which house global data bases in climatology, oceanography, solid
earth geophysics, marine geology and geophysics, solar-terrestrial
physics, and paleoclimatology.

For more on NESDIS, visit: http://www.nesdis.noaa.gov.

Learn more about NOAA’s role
in the Cospas-Sarsat program: http://www.sarsat.noaa.gov.

Note to Editors and Producers:
To arrange a media visit the U.S. Mission Control Center in Suitland,
Md., call Pat Viets at (301) 457-5005.

SpaceRef staff editor.