AN international team of NASA scientists arrived in Costa Rica Wednesday during the third day of an expedition to unearth archeological secrets in Central America.
The scientists are traveling aboard a DC-8 equipped with the Airborne Synthetic Aperture Radar (AirSAR), which can “see” beneath treetops, through thin sand and below dry snow pack. This technology will provide aerial visuals of what lies below the forests of Central America, possibly providing evidence of ancient roads and Pre-Columbian human existence in the region.
In addition to cultural research, the scientists are studying biological diversity in collaboration with the NationalCenter for High Technology (CENAT).
Although the DC-8 is equipped as a flying laboratory, the mission used the National Hanger of Aerotransportation Investigations at JuanSantamaríaAirport as a temporary base for the afternoon.
Welcoming the flight were NASA administrator Sean O’Keefe, Minister of Science and Technology Fernando Gutiérrez, CENAT director Dr. Pedro León, and U.S. Ambassador John Danilovich.
NASA has embarked on the journey in an effort to accurately inventory Central America’s environment and archeology before they are destroyed by current human activity, officials said.
AirSAR is able to detect features such as fortifications, causeways, walls and other evidence of advanced human civilizations not discovered in ground data collection because of difficulties penetrating the forest terrain. This information will be used to understand how humans have interacted with their landscape in the past and present, NASA officials said.
After studying Central America, NASA scientists will go to the ice fields of South America’s Patagonia region and Antarctica to study the effects of climate change.