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Silicon Valley startups in forefront of new space race

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Posted February 18, 2014

Prepare yourselves for the Greatest Show Not on Earth. Offering us all a front-row seat for planetary images that could make Google Earth seem so last decade, a slew of Bay Area startups have begun launching small, relatively inexpensive satellites into space. They lug powerful cameras that send back pictures and video, and those images soon could dramatically change the way we perceive our orbital home.

“It’s totally an Earth-observation space race out there,” says Stanford University professor and global ecologist Greg Asner. “With the cost of putting a satellite into orbit dropping because of cheaper materials and so many competing commercial launch ventures, a lot of really cool innovation has begun to happen.”

The possibilities are intriguing: For the first time, Earthlings will be able to peruse high-resolution satellite images of their planet, both photographs and videos, practically in near-real time. Then, by using readily available online mapping tools to enhance the visual data, users essentially could create storylines to show things such as environmental degradation to rain forests, human and wildlife migration patterns, and political crises such as the Arab Spring, pretty much as they unfold.

Two of the most talked-about companies in the vanguard of this Bay Area space race – Mountain View-based Skybox Imaging and San Francisco-based Planet Labs – have recently put up small satellites or are on the verge of adding more to their sky-high collections.

Read more at: Phys.org

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