Experiments in space and detection instruments aboard satellites will benefit agriculture and could change the shape of farming, Utah's first astronaut, Don Lind, told members of the Utah Farm Bureau Federation Thursday.
Speaking at the Farm Bureau's annual convention at the Marriott Hotel, Lind, now a professor of physics at Utah State University, said scientists, from a viewpoint in space, will someday answer questions about what man is doing to the ozone layer and whether a greenhouse effect will actually cause the Earth's icecaps to melt."We should have answers to these questions and others in 10 years," he predicted.
Lind, a native of Midvale, joined the USU faculty in 1986 after spending 20 years with NASA. He was aboard the space shuttle Challenger during its Spacelab Mission April 29 to May 6, 1985.
He told Utah farmers and ranchers and their spouses about some of the experiments he conducted in space, including studies of the aurora australis - the southern lights - and the growing of crystals in weightlessness.
He said the Bush administration will have to decide whether it wants to go to the moon again, go to Mars as the Russians are trying to do, investigate the Earth through a series of satellites or conduct other ventures in space.
"Already we can predict the weather to a much finer degree than ever before. Someday, farmers, knowing what the weather will be with certainty, can know exactly when to plant and harvest.
"Since the 1970s, measurements from space have told us much about agriculture around the world. We can estimate crop yields in countries where a shortage of rice can cause millions to starve. We can measure snow cover and snow depth and estimate the amount of water that will be available for agriculture.
"Aboard space vehicles 200 miles above the Earth, one can, with an infrared spectrometer and other devices, detect corn blight in a field days before someone standing in the field can."
There is a great concern, he said, that man will foul up the Earth. "I like to think we will not and that we will solve our problems," Lind said.
"I believe our experiments in space will help all mankind."