A pivotal agreement was signed today between the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), signaling a more vital collaboration between these prominent agencies. The partnership aims to foster advancement in agricultural and Earth science research, technology, and agriculture management, along with refining the application of scientific data and models in agricultural decision-making.
The agreement underscores the mutual interest of both agencies in maintaining their extensive partnership, focusing on collaborative activities that would inspire American youth to consider careers in STEM and agriculture. This initiative builds on NASA’s Bridge Program for fostering workforce development partnerships with higher-education institutions, including Tribal and Minority Serving Institutions. This effort is complemented by the USDA’s recently launched NextGen program, which dedicates $262.5 million to nurture the upcoming generation of diverse food and agriculture professionals.
NASA Administrator Bill Nelson stated, “As the climate continues to evolve, NASA’s Earth observation data will become increasingly crucial for our nation’s attempts to establish more climate-resilient food systems. This data assists our farmers in developing sustainable farming and aquaculture practices.”
The agreement explores possibilities for improving crop performance to serve Earthly and space-based objectives. This includes activities supporting NASA’s Artemis program, which plans to land the first woman and the first person of color on the moon, setting the groundwork for human exploration of Mars.
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack expressed his honor in solidifying the partnership with NASA. He stressed the critical intersection of global food security, climate change, and space: “Together, we are advancing cutting-edge innovation, research, and workforce development to tackle some of Earth’s greatest challenges.”
Collaboration with USDA in space exploration includes plant-related research on the International Space Station and other space and ground platforms, resulting in innovative methods to enhance American and global agriculture, protect the environment, and boost human health.
This memorandum aims to build on the partnership between the USDA and NASA that began in 2015. Prior and ongoing initiatives include the sending of 16 young individuals to NASA Space Camp in 2022, the creation of a free online tool called Crop-CASMA to assist farmers and researchers in soil data utilization, and the development of a hyperspectral imaging system to monitor plant health in space.