Wednesday, September 12, 2007

You can help find Steve Fossett - Google Earth

As most everyone knows by now, famed adventurer Steve Fossett went missing on Monday, September 3rd, after leaving a small airport in west Nevada in a small single-engine airplane with blue, white, and yellow colors on it. The area of Nevada where he went missing is very rugged terrain, and so far the search and rescue aircraft have not been able to locate the missing plane. New satellite imagery of the area taken by GeoEye has been taken. Amazon has produced a Help Find Steve Fossett web site which automatically provides you with an image to look at in the search area of new satellite imagery. You have to sign up and give your address to help with the search. If you see something in the small area which looks suspicious you're asked to flag it. The page also provides you with a network link which includes recently taken satellite imagery of the search area. You can load the network link in Google Earth and start looking over the recently taken imagery for a portion of the search area yourself. Or copy and paste the coordinates you were given to get a better look at that spot.
This is an approach to more rapidly search a large area of imagery using many eyeballs of people around the world. A similar technique was used to search for Jim Gray, a Microsoft scientist who went missing on his sailboat off the coast of California. Unfortunately, in the case of Jim Gray nothing was found. In this case, if Steve Fossett did in fact stay within the region of imagery provided, someone should find some sign of the plane in the imagery (unless the plane managed to go into water and sink - I was surprised how many small lakes there are in the search region).

We went looking at the imagery and it is too coarse and dark to do a decent job of spotting objects like a part of a plane. In spite of that, we think it is great that Google is doing this. We need the high tech secret military satellites to do a sweep of the area. Then we can see everything. We were wondering if they looked in the lakes? Being a sailor and having to ditch a plan I might opt for the water!- SK