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Context of 'September 13, 2001: US Geological Survey and NASA Agree on Aerial Examination of Ground Zero Dust'

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Scientists who work for the US Geological Survey watch the World Trade Center towers collapse on their television sets. “We sat at home, watched that gray-white cloud roll over Lower Manhattan, and knew damned well that the dust was going to hurt a lot of people,” Gregg Swayze, a USGS geophysicist, will later tell the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “I knew we had the best technology in the world to determine precisely what was in that dust.” [St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 2/10/2002] Swayze and other USGS scientists quickly get to work making arrangements to use USGS and NASA equipment to determine the composition of the dust clouds (see September 12, 2001).

Entity Tags: Gregg Swayze

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

Roger Clark, the astrophysicist who heads the US Geological Survey (USGS)‘s portion of the AVIRIS program in Denver, contacts Robert Green, head of the AVIRIS program at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. (The AVIRIS, or Airborne Visible Infrared Spectrometer, is a remote-sensing unit used by NASA to determine the chemical composition of a planet’s surface and atmosphere by analyzing the infrared signatures of minerals that are reflected from the ground and comparing them with the unique peaks and curves of the signatures of thousands of minerals and materials in the USGS database. [St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 2/10/2002] AVIRIS has been used before to scan Superfund toxic sites to map hot spots of harmful substances.) [New York Times, 9/17/2002] He asks Green for NASA permission to use the AVIRIS over New York City and parts of New Jersey to determine the chemical composition of the dust and debris resulting from the collapse of the World Trade Center. [St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 2/10/2002] NASA gives the go-ahead on September 13 (see September 13, 2001).

Entity Tags: Roger Clark, Robert Green

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

Robert Green, head of the AVIRIS program at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, informs Roger Clark, the astrophysicist who heads the US Geological Survey (USGS)‘s portion of the AVIRIS program in Denver, that NASA will permit the USGS team to use AVIRIS in an attempt to determine the chemical composition of the dust and debris that resulted from the collapse of the World Trade Center (see September 12, 2001). The crew will mount the unit to a de Havilland Twin Otter prop plane owned by NASA, which will make several passes over the WTC and surrounding area. “The Federal Emergency Management Agency and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy… signed off on the flight. And the Air Force [has] agreed not to shoot the Twin Otter down,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch will later report. [St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 2/10/2002]

Entity Tags: Robert Green, Roger Clark

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

NASA’s de Havilland Twin Otter propeller plane makes 14 passes over the region affected by the WTC collapse. The infrared-scanning AVIRIS unit, located underneath the plane, records infrared signatures of minerals reflected from the ground (see September 12, 2001). After the flight, the data tapes are sent to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena where NASA scientists Robert Green and Frank Loiza are waiting to review the data. The tapes arrive 2 a.m. the next morning. [St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 2/10/2002]

Entity Tags: Frank Loiza, Robert Green

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

NASA scientists, Robert Green and Frank Loiza, perform the first analysis of the AVIRIS data (see 12:00 p.m. September 16, 2001-2:00 a.m. September 17, 2001) and determine that there are a total of 34 fires burning at the World Trade Center site with temperatures ranging from 800 degrees to 1,000 degrees. They pass this and all subsequent data to the White House and other government agencies that are involved in responding to the environmental impact of the attacks. [St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 2/10/2002]

Entity Tags: Frank Loiza, Robert Green

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

At the White House’s request, NASA’s de Havilland Twin Otter prop plane, equipped with the AVIRIS unit (see September 12, 2001), conducts additional flights over Manhattan (see 12:00 p.m. September 16, 2001-2:00 a.m. September 17, 2001), collecting data on the chemical composition of the dust and debris that was distributed throughout the city when the World Trade Center’s twin towers collapsed. [St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 2/10/2002]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43)

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

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