Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Meeting Stan Freden

In 1980, as we returned from a ski trip to Utah, my wife and I were bumped from our flight and placed on another. Advised to grab any open seats, we settled next to a middle-aged gentleman who occupied my cherished window spot. Taking off from Salt Lake City, I noticed that he was studying the landscape below and I commented on the spectacular scenery, pointing out the High Uintas to our north. His amiable rapport led me into a dissertation on my conviction that air travel is the perfect way to learn geography and that videos, shot from aircraft, should be used in the classroom.

After patiently listening to my bold remarks, he asked me if I had heard of the Landsat Program (I had) and went on to inform me that he was a nuclear physicist who worked at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and was one of the authors of "Mission to Earth, Landsat Views the World." Better yet, sensing my interest in geology and geography, he offered to send me a copy; it has been a cherished possession ever since.

The Landsat Program, utilizing advanced satellite imaging techniques, has played an important role in both mapping and the study of our natural resources; geologic mapping, oil exploration, hydrology and the monitoring of vegetation patterns (including desertification and deforestation) are but a few of the disciplines that have benefited from the Program. To have met the Chief Landsat Scientist was truly an honor and this fortunate experience was one of those life events that fostered my enthusiasm for the natural sciences. I sincerely thank Dr. Freden for his kindness and his inspiration.