In 1978, the Science and Technology Laboratory (STL), formerly the Earth Resources Laboratory (ERL), at NASA’s Stennis Space Center (SSC), began its program of image and geographical information system processing of satellite and airplane data. This data-gathering process is known as remote sensing. It is technology that enables meteorologists, scientists, climatologists, and others to monitor changing conditions on earth. Data is gathered from spaceborne sensors that detect various types of radiation obtained from the earth. The transformation of that data into useable information is embodied in the NASA developed Earth Resources Laboratory Application Software (ELAS).
ELAS was developed in response to a NASA requirement that SSC innovate and execute a training program to enhance the transfer of remote sensing and related computer technologies to the public and commercial sectors. Working with data from the Landsat resources survey satellites and other sources, ELAS provided digital images that served in such areas as agricultural inventory, oil and mineral prospecting, weather forecasting, charting sources of fresh water, wildlife preservation, air and water pollution monitoring, delineating urban growth patterns, improving map accuracy, and studying floods to reduce the potential for devastation. Throughout the 1980s and 90s, this tool has become indispensable and continues to be applied in new arenas. The ELAS software is now utilized in support of many other unique endeavors besides processing data from satellite and aircraft. It’s now producing images of antiquities; enhancing magnetic resonance images of the human body; analyzing urban microclimatology; and processing submarine sonar images.