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Fifth Vikram Sarabhai Medal awarded to Dr. James D Baker, Administrator of NOAA

March 26, 1999

Dr. James D Baker, Administrator of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA) and Under Secretary, Department of Commerce, was awarded the 1998 "Fifth ISRO-COSPAR Vikram Sarabhai Medal" today.

The award was handed over by Dr. K. Kasturirangan, Secretary, Department of Space, Government of India, in presence of the Indian Ambassador Mr. Naresh Chandra and senior representatives from the US Government, including from the Department of State, NASA, COSPAR, INTELSAT, EOSAT and NOAA. The ceremony took place at the residence of the Indian Ambassador in Washington DC.

The Vikram Sarabhai award was instituted jointly by the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR) and Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) for recognizing outstanding contributions to space research in developing countries and is given bi-annually.

Dr. Baker has been selected for the 1998 Vikram Sarabhai Medal for his valuable contribution to space research in developing countries by organizing the program related to the NOAA satellite operational system and utilization of the global data. As the Administrator of the NOAA, he has provided effective leadership to ensure that NOAA satellite data are made available to national weather services, particularly those of the developing countries.

Over 100 users in 89 countries now operate the Automatic Picture Transmission (ATP) receiving stations and over 120 High Resolution Picture Transmission (HRPT) ground stations have been set up in different parts of the world (many of them in developing countries) to receive AVHRR and TOVS picture and channel data at no charge. The data thus collected are being used at local and regional levels related to weather prediction, aviation, marine transportation, snow cover/melt areas, sea surface temperature anomalies and ocean currents. In India, the NOAA APT and HRPT data are received directly at Hyderabad and have been widely utilized for direct applications in vegetation dynamics, detection of shoals of fish, weather and monsoon prediction and cyclogenesis.

The derived data products from NOAA’s geostationary and polar orbiting satellites are disseminated free of charge to national and regional meteorological centers on the WMO’s global Telecommunication System (GTS). Apart from the direct benefits of these studies accrued to the developing countries, the long-term database generated through NOAA, Landsat and other satellites has been very useful in studies of climatological variations and global change phenomena. Under Dr. Baker’s leadership, NOAA has established a system in which users can access NOAA’s Earth system data directly at no cost using international telecommunication and electronic communication systems such as Internet and dial-up telephone lines.

Dr. Baker has been instrumental in carrying out satellite data application related joint projects for developing countries. His strong support for the US initiative "Mission to Planet Earth" – a long-range study of the Earth system as a whole using polar, geostationary and special orbit satellites – and his innovative ideas for the overall planning of the same would fulfill many future requirements of global observational data at high spatial and temporal resolutions. His book "Plant Earth - the View from Space" examines, among other things, the long-term problem of security, technology transfer, data dissemination and international coordination, that should be addressed, lest these become impediments in the path of achieving a full fledged operational system of global observations.

In view of the above outstanding contributions, the 1998 Vikram Sarabhai Medal is awarded to Dr. Baker. The conferment of this award on Dr. Baker symbolizes the spirit of international cooperation for bringing the benefit of space to the entire world, particularly - the developing world.