Satellites orbiting the Earth help us in countless ways. For example, they allow the GPS in our smartphones to tell us where we are located and they help us watch football games on weekends. And now a new NASA satellite scheduled for launch in 2014—the Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) instrument—will help USDA better predict agricultural productivity and forecast drought conditions.
There are three things of utmost importance to farmers—soil, sun and water. SMAP will serve at the junction of two of these variables, helping USDA and others improve its knowledge and understanding of soil moisture. Measuring soil moisture helps scientists, farmers, water managers and others understand how much water will be available at any given time, which influences the key decisions they make about managing and using water supplies. Read more »