NASA Ramps Up Jet Search in Distant Ocean

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NASA said Friday that it will train its space eyes on an area in the southern Indian Ocean that is a new focus of the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines jet.

The U.S. space agency has been searching through data acquired by its satellites since a couple of days after the Boeing 777-200 disappeared March 8. Spokesman Allard J. Beutel said cameras aboard the Earth-Observing-1 (EO-1) satellite and the International Space Station also have been used to acquire new images of possible crash sites.

Now, Beutel said, plans are underway to train space-based assets on an area 1,500 miles southwest of Australia where two objects were seen by an Australian satellite. He did not say precisely what those assets might include but said the effort to acquire imagery would begin “within the next few days.”

The area is vast — 22,000 square miles. A search by air and sea began Thursday, but the region is so distant from land that aircraft can only spend a couple of hours there before being forced to return. More aircraft and ships are expected to join the hunt over the weekend.

Beutel said the cameras used so far by NASA could identify objects about 98 feet across or larger. The largest of the objects spotted by an Australian satellite was said to be about 75 feet across.

NASA is sending the data to the U.S. Geological Survey, which runs a system for sharing such satellite information internationally in the event of a disaster.

— Julianne Pepitone