The next imagery data source is a little different from those described previously. It is kind of a last resort effort when none of the previous sources yield acceptable or even any images at all. This is the NASA Image Exchange (NIX) database available at the NASA Image Exchange website.
This data source can be hit or miss. Often it yields a large number of low-quality images, mostly acquired from various Space Shuttle missions. Many of these images can be searched directly using the NASA Earth from Space Website described in an earlier article on this site. Every once in a while, however this source presents a diamond in the rough.
As an example, I conducted an arbitrary search using the single word “Everest” using the NIX database search engine. The site almost immediately returned several images, one of which was outstanding and several of which were excellent.
The first image shown was taken from the International Space Station by flight engineer Daniel Bursch using a hand held camera. The image has been thinned considerably and cropped so that it will display conveniently on this page. The Rombuk Glacier and the prominent North Ridge of Everest are visible in the foreground, with the South Col and Lhotse visible behind the peak.
The second image is even more impressive. It is a large (12.4MB) image taken by STS mission 87 in December of 1997. This nearly perfect image is more useful than the previous because of the ideal lighting conditions that happened to exist when the shuttle flew over the location, and also the near-normal camera angle with respect to the earth's surface.
I also searched for “cape cod” with less impressive results. None of the images returned could compare with the excellent Landsat 5 image obtained from EarthSat and shown in the previous article.
I then searched “provo” and again hit the jackpot. One of the images returned was an artificial color composite ASTER image of the Salt Lake and northern Utah valleys, showing much of the Provo area depicted by my earlier excellent EarthSat image. This was an extremely large image (98MB). A thumbnail of a section of this image is shown at the right. A full-resolution chip can be viewed by clicking on the thumbnail.
The database search engine was kind of quirky. The Boolean search feature did not seem to work unless the entire expression was enclosed in parentheses. For example, to search for Landsat images of Cape Cod you would need to input ‘(cape AND cod AND Landsat)’ in order for the search to return meaningful results, which in this case was no data found.
The NASA image exchange website is a pretty exciting place to work because you never know what you will find. Most of the returns will be unremarkable STS data but it is definitely worth checking because every once in a while you will get lucky and some really interesting data will be returned.