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Australian Researchers Develop Camera, Now Blasted Into Space, To Track Great Barrier Reef

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A high-resolution satellite camera is fired into space to monitor the embattled Great Barrier Reef as well as aid in the fight against bushfires.

The device called an Earth-sensing imaging spectrometer and built at La Trobe University in Australia in partnership with the German Aerospace Center was launched Friday at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida onboard the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

Successful Launch

It takes three days to reach the International Space Station where the device will be installed. It will take around a three-month commissioning process to ensure it's properly working.

“[I]deally all things going well maybe around October, November we’ll have the first images that can also be used for commercial purposes,” said Dr. Peter Moar, senior lecturer at the university.

Camera data and imagery will go the university’s School of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences and to Melbourne-based firm ESS Weathertech’s ground station.

Engineers had a number of concerns before the launch, including the possibility of blowing up.

“But we watched the launch on a big screen and there was a big relief,” Dr. Moar added.

Monitoring The Reef, Bushfires

Industry and employment minister Ben Carroll hailed the launch in a 9News story as a show of “international leadership in the space industry.”

Apart from this, the camera will deliver state-of-the-art images to monitor bushfires, floods, as well as the health of the Great Barrier Reef for its proper conservation. It will also help in emergency services, as firefighters can access an infrared fire map that they can download into their individual systems.

The camera is also designed to hurdle extreme conditions such as temperatures that dip as low as -459.4 degrees Fahrenheit or about -273 degrees Celsius.

This development strengthens the government’s hopes for Australia’s own space agency, a bite into the global space industry that’s predicted to reach over $1 trillion by the year 2040.

Today, there’s a race against time to save the beleaguered Great Barrier Reef, which, according to a new study, already died five times over the last 30,000 years but was able to survive every time. A sixth death, though, may kill it for good due to the rate at which climate change is happening.

Coral IVF or a coral fertility treatment is deemed one of the sound ways to help heal damaged areas of the reef, as seen in the success of the technology in the baby coral reefs population at Heron Island and One Tree Island.

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