NASA, USAID Expand Work to Meet Global Development Challenges

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden speaks prior to signing a five-year memorandum of understanding with the USAID, Monday, April 25, 2011, at NASA Headquarters in Washington. Photo Credit: (NASA/Paul E. Alers)

April 26, 2011

By MacKenzie C. Babb
Department of State Staff Writer


Washington – NASA and the U.S. Agency for International Development are partnering to meet global development challenges such as food security, climate change, and energy and environmental management.

“Technologies for NASA missions have long improved life here on Earth.

Together with USAID, we’ll meet even more sustainable development challenges here on the ground, solving problems for the world community,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said April 25 before signing a new partnership agreement with USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah.

The five-year memorandum of understanding, signed at NASA headquarters in Washington, formalizes ongoing agency collaborations that use Earth science data to address developmental challenges and to assist in disaster mitigation and humanitarian responses, according to an April 25 joint agency announcement. The pact also “encourages NASA and USAID to apply geospatial technologies to solve development challenges affecting the United States as well as developing countries,” the announcement said.

USAID is the lead federal development agency, charged with implementing U.S. development efforts through field-based programs and projects around the world. NASA has broad experience with Earth science research, the development of Earth science information products and technology applications.

According to the joint release, the agencies will also use research, computer models, visualization applications and remote-sensing techniques “to stimulate innovative science and technology solutions” to problems across the international development spectrum.

“Through our partnership with NASA, we can apply the latest, cutting-edge technology to deliver meaningful results for people in developing countries in areas like health, food security and water,”

Shah said. “It’s a prime example of our efforts to use the power of science and technology to tackle today’s pressing development challenges.”

Since 2003, NASA and USAID have worked together in building and expanding the SERVIR program, which allows people in developing regions to use Earth observations for addressing challenges in agriculture, biodiversity conservation, climate change, disaster response, weather forecasting, and energy and health issues.

SERVIR integrates satellite observations, ground-based data and forecast models to monitor and forecast environmental changes and improve responses to natural disasters in Central America and the Caribbean, East Africa and the Himalayan region of Asia.


The agencies, along with the State Department and U.S.-based sports corporation Nike, also collaborate on the LAUNCH program, which supports science and technology innovators in the nonprofit and private sectors.

The program seeks to address sustainability issues by identifying, showcasing and supporting innovative approaches to global challenges through a series of forums.

Underscoring the importance of educating the next generation of international leaders, the agency chiefs highlighted their joint work on the Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) initiative.

GLOBE is a worldwide primary and secondary school-based program funded by several U.S. agencies to promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics education.

Other Resources:

Full text of USAID Press Release – Apr 25, 2011.

NASA Flickr Photostream