NASA boosts collaboration with Vietnam on bigger land use picture

By Minh Nga   July 18, 2019 | 06:09 pm PT
NASA boosts collaboration with Vietnam on bigger land use picture
The NASA logo on a protective box for a camera near the space shuttle Endeavour at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, U.S. Photo by AFP/Stan Honda.
NASA is working in close cooperation with several Vietnamese agencies to help the nation cope with environmental changes.

The NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Vietnam National Space Center (VNSC) and Ho Chi Minh City University of Technology closed their two-day scientific workshop in HCMC on Thursday, announcing plans to enhance cooperation to research land use status, change and impacts in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, under the Land Cover and Land Use Change Program at NASA Headquarters.

Launched last year, the research aims at quantitatively documenting the current status and rate of change of land cover and land use and how trajectories of these changes are linked to population and demographic transitions in the country.

It covers several topics including rural-urban transformation, urbanization, agriculture and aquaculture changes, deforestation and reforestation, environmental impacts, natural disasters, population and demographic dynamics, and implications on implementations of international agreements such as the Paris Agreement within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Vu Anh Tuan, vice general director of VNSC, said through the collaboration, two initiatives to support forestation management, monitor rice crops and floods using satellite data will be launched this year for the Mekong Basin.

So far, the project has been using remote sensing satellites to collect data on air pollution in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, and to measure wind speeds to suggest potential localities for developing wind farms in the country.

It has also observed urban hotspots to see the impacts of urbanization and studied soil moisture on the Earth's surface to support agriculture development. It has also measured land subsidence and water levels in rivers.

Using the data

Nghiem Van Son, senior research scientist at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said scientists and researchers will analyze the data collected from satellites and present their findings to policymakers for follow up action.

"A key question is how to improve ecosystem benefits and maintenance through Earth observations optimally and sustainably to develop effective plans/policies," he said. A possible answer will rely on concrete collaborations in space science and applications among NASA, VNSC, Vietnam universities and international agencies and institutions, he said.

Lam Dao Nguyen, director of HCMC Space Technology Application Center under the VNSC, said the collaboration so far with NASA has helped the center collect data from satellites of the U.S., and connect with international agencies like the Italian Space Agency and the Space Strategy for Europe of the European Commission.

In the future, there will hopefully be student and scientist exchange programs between Vietnam and international institutions, he said.

Early this year, Vietnamese coast observation satellite MicroDragon was successfully launched from Japan via a cooperation between VNSC and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, and Nguyen said it was possible that the same cooperation could happen in the future with NASA.

Nguyen Quoc Khanh from the Department of National Remote Sensing under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, said the ministry looks to cooperate with NASA to develop satellites, space stations, and human resources for remote sensing.

It also hopes to work with NASA to construct and exploit infrastructure for receiving and processing remote sensing data, as well as to exchange other technologies, he said.

From now to 2030 and with a vision to 2040, Vietnam would like to apply remote sensing technology, products and data to observe and monitor natural resources and environment, support search and rescue activities, prevent natural disasters and respond to climate change, said Khanh, adding that he hopes the collaboration with NASA will help turn those targets into reality soon.

Aside from MicroDragon, Vietnam now has three others satellites in space, the Vinasat 1 launched in 2008, Vinasat 2 in 2012 and the VNRedSat 1 in 2013. The first two are telecommunications satellites, while the third is an observation satellite.

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