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Guide to the Donald E. Wilson Earth Resources Survey Program Papers, 1972-1983
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Custodial History
  • Administrative and Biographical History
  • Sources Consulted:
  • Indexing Terms
  • Scope and Content
  • Arrangement of the Donald E. Wilson Earth Resources Survey Program Papers

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Donald E. Wilson Earth Resources Survey Program Papers
    Date (inclusive): 1972-1983
    Collection Number: PP07.13-DW
    Creator: Wilson, Donald E.
    Extent: Number of containers: 10

    Volume: 4 cubic feet
    Repository: Ames Research Center, Ames History Office
    Moffett Field, California 94035
    Abstract: This collection includes reports, correspondence, newsletters, maps, and imagery documenting the applications of remote sensing of earth resources and technology transfer efforts to establish Landsat data analysis capabilities in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. The collection is arranged in six series that reflect the administration, programs, and records related to these earth resources survey applications projects, as well as the activities of Donald E. Wilson during his career at the NASA Ames Research Center.
    Language: English

    Administrative Information


    Collection is open for research.

    Publication Rights

    Copyright does not apply to United States government records. For non-government material, researcher must contact the original creator.

    Preferred Citation

    NASA Ames History Office, NASA Ames Research Center. Moffett Field, California. PP07.13-DW, Donald E. Wilson Earth Resources Survey Program Papers, [Container number] : [Folder number]. [Identification of item]. [Date, if available].

    Abbreviated Citation

    NASA ARC. PP07.13-DW, [Container number] : [Folder number]. [Identification of item]. [Date, if available].

    Administrative Information

    Related Material

    Robert E. Slye Papers, 1961-2001 (PP07.13-RS).

    Custodial History

    The accumulated records of Donald E. Wilson were given to Robert E. Slye (NASA Advanced Supercomputing Division) to store when Wilson retired in 1988.

    Acquisition Information

    Transferred by Robert E. Slye in August 2007.

    Administrative and Biographical History

    Donald E. Wilson began his career at the NASA Ames Research Center as a member of the Entry Simulation Team (Code ESB) in 1962. From 1963 to 1971, Wilson worked in the Materials Research Branch (Code SVM) of the Vehicle and Environment Division (Code SV) under the Astronautics Directorate (Code S). It was renamed the Materials Science Branch (Code STS) and reassigned to the Thermo- and Gas-Dynamics Division (Code ST) in 1972, when the Vehicle and Environment Division, which had supported the Apollo missions, was eliminated. During the course of his materials science research, Wilson co-authored technical reports on the thermal analysis of polymeric materials, as well as a study on low temperature cooling techniques.
    In August 1972, NASA headquarters chartered Ames with the lead center responsibility for the remote sensing aircraft program. The Applications Aircraft Support Program Office (AASPO), managed by Edward W. Gomersall, was established in December 1972 to provide aerial support for earth observation satellites, remote sensing applications, and damage assessments. The AASPO fleet included two U-2 aircraft, which were made available for research purposes by the U.S. Air Force and arrived at Ames in 1971. (The civilian version of U-2 aircraft was named ER-2 for earth resources.) Wilson was assigned to the Evaluation and Analysis section of the AASPO, also known as the Applications Aircraft and Future Programs Office. In 1974, Wilson assumed the role of Technical Assistant with the Thermo- and Gas-Dynamics Division.
    In 1976, Wilson was assigned to the User Applications Branch (Code SEA) of the Airborne Missions and Applications Division (Code SE), headed by Dale R. Lumb. The branch was renamed the Technical Applications Branch in 1979. Ames hosted the Western Regional Remote Sensing Conference in 1979 and 1981 to aid in the transfer of operational capabilities for the utilization of remote sensing technology for earth resource management among state and local governments, private industry, and universities.
    In 1979, Carter’s Presidential Directive 54 initiated the transfer of Landsat operations from NASA to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Two years later, President Reagan proposed the termination of all regional commissions, as well as reduced funding to technology transfer programs, which accelerated the commercialization of satellite operations. In response, Ames underwent a major reorganization in 1984 in which the Airborne and Missions Applications Division was removed. Wilson was transferred to the Medium Altitude Missions Branch (Code OMM) in the Science and Applications Aircraft Division (Code OM) under the Director of Flight Operations and retired on April 22, 1988.

    The Earth Resources Technology Satellite (ERTS), renamed Landsat in 1975, was equipped with remote sensors, including high resolution multispectral scanner systems (MSS), return beam vidicon (RBV) imaging systems (used on Landsat 1, 2 and 3), and thematic mapper instruments (first used on Landsat 4), designed to acquire data to categorize Earth’s surface. The first satellite, ERTS-1, was launched in 1972, and Landsat 4 was launched in 1982. Landsat is the longest running enterprise for the acquisition of imagery of the earth from space.

    Sources Consulted:

    Bugos, Glenn E. Atmosphere of freedom: sixty years at the NASA Ames Research Center. Washington, D.C.: NASA SP4314, 2000.
    Hartman, Edwin. Adventures in Research: A History of Ames Research Center, 1940-1965. Washington, D.C.: NASA SP-4302, 1970.
    Landsat Program. http://geo.arc.nasa.gov/sge/landsat/landsat.html (accessed November 2, 2009).
    Muenger, Elizabeth A. Searching the Horizon: A History of Ames Research Center, 1940-1976. Washington, D.C.: NASA SP-4204, 1985.
    NASA Ames History Office, NASA Ames Research Center. Moffett Field, California. AFS1030.39A, Ames Astrogram Collection. 1973-1988.
    NASA Ames History Office, NASA Ames Research Center. Moffett Field, California. AFS1070.8A, Archives Reference Collection. Telephone Directories. 1962-1983.
    Tuyahov, Alex. Technology Transfer Program: Perspective. NASA Ames Research Center, Western Regional Remote Sensing Conference Proceedings, 1981.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms may be used to index this collection.

    Corporate Name

    Ames Research Center
    United States. National Aeronautics and Space Administration


    Earth observations (from space)
    Earth Resources Survey aircraft
    Earth Resources Survey Program
    Geographic information systems
    Landsat satellites
    Remote sensing
    Technology transfer

    Geographic Names

    Moffett Field (Calif.)
    Pacific Northwest (U.S.)

    Scope and Content

    The Donald E. Wilson Earth Resources Survey Program Papers (4 cubic feet) includes reports, project plans, proposals, consortium agreements, meeting minutes, memos, correspondence, newsletters, maps, lithographs, photographs, and slides documenting demonstrations of useful applications of remote sensing data to manage earth resources. The collection also contains records that cover the transfer of computing technology to establish Landsat imagery analysis capabilities within local and state agencies in the western United States, primarily in the Pacific Northwest region. The collection is arranged in six series that record the administration and progress of the Landsat applications programs with a focus on NASA’s role in research and the commercial potential for operational technology programs.
    The first series documents the activities of the Applications Aircraft Support Programs Office in the early 1970s. An earth resource survey cost benefit study presented to the Office of Management and Budget was vital to the national decision to pursue an operational earth remote sensing system. Land use maps and classification systems are also included.
    The second series, Pacific Northwest Region, contains records encompassing Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. With its inception in 1972, the Pacific Northwest Regional Commission (PNRC), which consisted of the governors and a federal co-chairman appointed by the President, was charged with setting priorities and approving projects that contributed to the economic development of the region. The PNRC established Land Resources Inventory Demonstration Projects (LRIDP) to demonstrate the utility of Landsat imagery analysis to earth resource management. The Landsat Application Program (LAP) was later conceived as a three-year continuation of LRIDP to establish full in-state operational capability for Landsat data analysis systems. In 1974, the PNRC formed the Technology Transfer Task Force, composed of representatives from the three states, NASA, and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), to oversee LAP, specifically to make recommendations, as well as monitor and coordinate technology transfer activities. NASA’s role was to provide technical consulting and assistance in methodology for the users in state and local agencies. This included some support of the Western Regional Applications Program (WRAP) and Application System Verification and Transfer (ASVT) projects, both of which comprise a relatively small number of items in this collection.
    The third series, Land Resources Inventory Demonstration Projects / Landsat Applications Program, represents the majority of the collection. It contains project proposals, reports, letters, and consortium agreements with universities documenting demonstrations of the use of Landsat data for applications to land use management, urban development planning, range surveys, and inventories of forestry, game, and water resources. Documents associated with establishing image analysis systems are also included.
    The fourth series, Landsat imagery, contains lithographs of RBV (return beam vidicon) images, primarily illustrating the classification of Tacoma land use intensity and Portland census tracts.
    The fifth series contains the entire set of the Pixel Facts newsletter, which provided updates on Landsat project activities from 1975 to 1979.
    The sixth series includes miscellaneous papers not filed with specific programs.
    Supplemental aids to the collection are available on the NASA Ames History Office website.


    Acronyms List
    AASPO Applications Aircraft Support Program Office
    APT Application Pilot Test
    ASVT Application Systems Verification and Transfer
    CCT Computer Compatible Tape
    CIRSS California Integrated Remote Sensing System
    EODMS Earth Observation Data Management Systems
    EOS Earth Observing System
    ERIM Environmental Research Institute of Michigan
    EROS Earth Resources Observing System
    ERSAL Environmental Remote Sensing Applications Laboratory
    ERSS Earth Resources Survey Operational System
    ERTS Earth Resources Technology Satellite
    ESL Electromagnetic Systems Laboratory, Inc.
    ESM Earth Sensing Mechanisms
    GES Goddard Earth Science (NASA)
    GIS Geographic Information System
    JPL Jet Propulsion Laboratory
    JSC Johnson Space Center (NASA)
    LAP Landsat Applications Program
    LRIDP Land Resources Inventory Demonstration Project
    LUMIS Land Use Management Information System
    MATE Van Mobile Analysis and Training Extension Van
    MSS Multispectral Scanner System
    NASA National Aeronautical and Space Administration
    NAPP Northwest Agricultural Policy Project
    NOAA National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
    OMB Office of Management and Budget
    OSU Oregon State University
    PNRC Pacific Northwest Regional Commission
    PNW Pacific Northwest
    RBV Return Beam Vidicon
    STC Stanford Technology Corporation
    T3F Technology Transfer Task Force
    TAP Technology Advancement Program
    TMS Thematic Mapper Simulation
    USGS United States Geological Society
    UW University of Washington
    VICAR/IBIS Video Image Communication and Retrieval/Image Based Information System
    WRAP Western Regional Applications Program
    WSU Washington State University
    WSUCSC Washington State University Computing Service Center

    Arrangement of the Donald E. Wilson Earth Resources Survey Program Papers

    The papers are arranged into six series, chronologically, by region and function:
    • I. Applications Aircraft Support Programs Office (AASPO), 1972-1976
      1. Aircraft Earth Resources Technology Satellite Support, 1972-1976
      2. Land Use, 1973-1974
    • II. Pacific Northwest (PNW) Region, 1975-1983
      1. Pacific Northwest Regional Commission Reviews, 1975-1981
      2. Technology Transfer Task Force, 1979-1981
      3. Reviews for NASA Headquarters, 1979-1983
    • III. Land Resources Inventory Demonstration Projects (LRIDP) / Landsat Applications Program (LAP), 1976-1982

      1. Washington State, 1976-1981
      2. Oregon State, 1976-1980
      3. Idaho State, 1974-1981
      4. Consortium Agreements 1979-1982
      5. LAP Computing Systems, 1976-1981
    • IV. Imagery, 1975-1980
    • V. Pixel Facts Newsletter, 1975-1981
    • VI. Miscellaneous Files, 1976-1982