NASA scientists and Costa Rican students have collaborated
to publish a new book that captures the splendor of Costa
Rica’s varied landscape as photographed by astronauts from

“Costa Rica from Space,” the product of a joint effort between
NASA and EARTH University in Costa Rica, captures changes over
the past two decades in the environment and geography of Costa
Rica. The work reveals, visually and through accompanying text,
geographical, ecological, climatic, human, agricultural and
urban phenomena occurring within Costa Rica, but illustrating
the interdependence of all inhabitants of Earth. Aerial and
ground photos supplement the photography from space.

“This book builds on two strengths — our unique planetary
perspective as captured by space photography and the power of
experience from those who live and work in the places we
photograph,” said Franklin Chang-Diaz, NASA astronaut, Costa
Rican native and author of the book’s prologue. “From these two
perspectives, knowledge of our planet is given to those who are
entrusted with protecting it.”

Astronauts have taken 500 photographs of Costa Rica since the
days of the Apollo Program. This small proportion of the more
than 400,000 photos taken by Space Shuttle crews is a measure
of the persistent cloud cover that obscures tropical countries
like Costa Rica. From 1993 to 1999, students from EARTH
University interned at NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC) in
Houston, compiling the best of these 500 photos.

Tropical humid ecosystems, such as Costa Rica’s environment,
are rich in natural resources and have great biodiversity.
These fragile environments must be maintained by carefully
balancing agricultural production and resource conservation.
This challenge gave rise to the creation of EARTH University in
1990. The university awards degrees in agricultural sciences
and natural-resource management.

EARTH students interned at JSC for three to four months to
further their studies in these disciplines and to think about
new approaches to managing their natural resources based on
technologies available in the United States.

“The students submitted reports at the end of their
internship,” said Kamlesh Lulla, NASA chief scientist for Earth
and Imaging Sciences at JSC and one of the book’s authors. “The
result was a manuscript of the photography of Costa Rica from
space and analyses of that imagery.”

NASA provided technical material and project reports, while
EARTH University contributed ground photos. The book, written
by Bert Kohlmann, Justin Wilkinson and Lulla, was printed in
Costa Rica in 2002. EARTH students who participated in the
project are listed among the book’s contributors.

“This book is especially significant as it represents a
testimony to interinstitutional and international cooperation,”
said Jose Zaglul, president of EARTH University. “A product of
a joint effort between EARTH University and NASA’s Johnson
Space Center, the publication has received the support of the
United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural
Organization. I hope that this volume will be an important
educational resource, not only for all Costa Ricans, but also
for people in other parts of the world.”

Each chapter covers a specific region of Costa Rica. The left
column on each page is in Spanish; the right is in English.
“The book has been primarily intended to educate the Costa
Ricans in particular and the public in general,” said Kohlmann,
a professor at EARTH University. “We want to stress the fact
that ecological processes are global and that they do not stop
at political borders. So, events taking place in Africa, like
sandstorms, reach all the way to the Caribbean Basin; river
sediments that flow to the sea in Costa Rica can travel all the
way to Colombia.”

“Costa Rica’s ex-vice president, Manuel Dengo, very kindly
interested himself in the book,” added Wilkinson, Lockheed
Martin principal scientist at JSC. “He asked especially that an
educational slant be given so that ‘children and grandmothers’
would be able to read and benefit from the book. We took this
request to heart.”

For more information about the book, contact EARTH University