Obama Supports Weather Satellites as NOAA's GOES-11 Helps Injured Alaskan Hikers

Obama Supports Weather Satellites as NOAA's GOES-11 Helps Injured Alaskan Hikers

President Obama included weather satellites as an example of the type of program that really does need federal funding in his speech to the nation on Monday. Weather satellites are not just critical to weather forecasting, either. As the survivors of the recent grizzly bear attack in Alaska know, NOAA’s satellites are part of the global emergency locator system for people in distress.

In a story that made national headlines, a group of seven students hiking in Alaska were attacked by a mother grizzly bear. Four of the students were injured and two required hospitalization. Other members of the group activated an emergency locator transmitter to get help. NOAA’s GOES-11 geostationary satellite picked up the signal and helped identify their location. One of Europe’s polar orbiting weather satellites further pinpointed it, allowing rescuers to reach the group about 93 miles north of Anchorage.

The United States, Canada, France and the Soviet Union decided to form the international COSPAS-SARSAT satellite-based search and rescue system in 1979. The transponders are placed on weather satellites. The system has supported more than 28,000 rescues worldwide since 1982 when the first COSPAS-SARSAT equipped satellite was launched.

On Monday, President Obama addressed the nation about the debt limit/deficit reduction stalemate. In his remarks about the need for a balanced approach to resolving those issues he said:

“We all want a government that lives within its means, but there are still things we need to pay for as a country — things like new roads and bridges; weather satellites and food inspection; services to veterans and medical research.”

The House Appropriations Committee approved significant cuts to NOAA’s satellite programs in marking up the Commerce-Justice-Science appropriations bill on July 13. The bill has not passed the House and the Senate has not acted yet.

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