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Tahani Amer: changing lives with the SWOT satellite

Updated: Jun 16, 2023

“When we open the faucet, we take it automatically that the water will come. But there’s places in the world that don’t have these opportunities,” begins Tahani Amer in a 2022 video from NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Amer speaks in the video about her role as NASA Program executive for the International Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) satellite water tracking mission. SWOT, a project which aims to survey our global water supply in order for us to be able to conserve it better, is a real game changer.

According to the mission website, the SWOT satellite will be able to detect ocean features with a resolution ten times better than that of current technologies. This is necessary in order to detect features that majorly contribute to climate change. The technology will also be able to track harmful pollutants in the water, as well as enhance climate prediction models.

Amer emphasizes that understanding the changes in the water around us will help us to conserve our water.

“SWOT is a very unique project,” says Amer. “We need to understand our water cycle in detail, and SWOT is going to be one of the first satellites to measure global water. So we’ll have a better understanding of our water and water accessibility.”

Tahani Amer was encouraged to pursue science from a young age, as her father worked in water as well. “He used to work for the Nile River, for the High Dam in Egypt. Growing up in Egypt, my dad was always encouraging me. He said “Boys and girls, there is no difference between them.””

Amer not only has a deep-rooted passion for engineering but also a drive to make the world a better place.

“I always had a dream that I would do something different, something outside the box than any ordinary girl,” Amer states in a NASA video titled “Tahani Amer” from 9 years ago. In her 2022 video, it's satisfying to see that her journey has come full circle as she works on the SWOT mission, a project that could help lessen the impact of climate change. “It is very rewarding to me that I can do anything, even at baby steps, to save our planet.”

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