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Cheat Sheet


On March 8, a plane vanished into thin air. It’s hard to imagine something so Bermuda Triangle-y happening in an age of NSA surveillance, powerful cell phones and endless emails. Accordingly, the  disappearance has sprouted theories as simple as a plane fire, and as outrageous as CNN claiming it was a black hole.
How do you find a missing airplane in an ocean that is 23 million square miles large? The mystery initially prompted twenty-two countries to get involved in the search, but early on it was clear that governmental resources weren’t going to be enough. So when news of the missing flight surfaced, Longmont-based DigitalGlobe, a high-resolution aerial imagery company, released their most up-to-date satellite photographs of the search area to the public. They partnered with another company – Tomnod – to crowd-source the search.

According to KOAA news, by March 12 over 600,000 people had gone to the Tomnod website to help find anything out of the ordinary. Because the ocean is big – really, really big – it would be impossible to search all at once, so Tomnod broke the images into city-block sized chunks so that our human eyes can see incongruities.
Nancy Coleman, Senior Director of Corporate Communications for DigitalGlobe, says that releasing images of the ocean veers away from their satellite’s more typical roles, such as helping in times of natural disasters. “Within two hours we can have a map for emergency responders to use,” Coleman says.
DigitalGlobe watches over everything  from North Korea to Oklahoma, and now their efforts have directly connected Boulder County to one of the most sensational news stories of the year.

“We are proud to be a technology company in Longmont, Colorado that has an impact in events all over the world,” tells Coleman.
But at the end of the day, it was the more than half a million people who searched through DigitalGlobe’s images that made the difference—er, well, at least tried. Malaysia Airlines recently notified families—by text message, it might be added—that the passengers were presumed to be lost in the ocean, a tacit confession that the search effort will not likely yield results.

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