Software developed by ESRI, the leader in geographic information system (GIS) and SAS, the leader in business intelligence, helped guide the search for debris from the space shuttle Columbia after it broke apart February 1 over the western United States.

The software-ArcGIS, SAS Bridge for ESRI, and SAS Enterprise Guide-helped the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) define and map the shuttle debris path that emergency management teams searched after the disaster. The combination of SAS and ESRI software enabled the team to quickly predict key debris lines for the shuttle's materials, as well as the areas surrounding the predicted path, providing accurate and reliable results for the search crews. These results were projected onto the surface of the earth and used in the $300 million search effort led by NASA and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

"We hadn't used SAS in an emergency field situation before, but it was easy, and within five minutes we were generating locational predictions of where debris fell," said Gerco Hoogeweg, project manager at ESRI. "We used SAS because we needed more advanced analysis tools than a spreadsheet program could provide us. Combining ArcGIS software's data visualization techniques with SAS enabled fast, efficient analysis and aided in the entire GIS project. Integration of the SAS and ESRI platforms provided us with significant advancement in the statistical analysis of spatial data."

"Expediting accurate results in the field has been critical to getting answers associated with this tragedy," said Fiona McNeill, technology strategist at SAS. "The combination of SAS and ESRI capabilities enabled the search teams to quickly determine where to focus their efforts, saving both time and money. We are grateful that we were able to help the emergency response teams in their efforts." The need to consider spatial relationships as a factor in the intelligence generation process prompted SAS and ESRI to work together to build the SAS Bridge for ESRI-a product the companies codeveloped.

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