Nasa is helping to find Flight MH370 by looking at satellite footage
Nasa is helping to find Flight MH370 by looking at satellite footage and at a camera on the International Space StationReuters

The mystery surrounding the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines MH370 has grown to such an extent that US space agency Nasa is now pitching in to help find the plane.

Nasa is looking at how it can contribute to the search by making use of its valuable space assets to search images of Earth from space.

"Activities under way include mining data archives of satellite data acquired earlier and using space-based assets, such as the Earth-Observing-1(EO-1) satellite and the ISERV camera on the International Space Station, to acquire new images of possible crash sites," NASA spokesman Allard Beutel told Space.com.

"The resolution of images from these instruments could be used to identify objects of about 98 feet (30 metres) or larger."

Nasa is also going to send any data it finds that could be relevant to the missing airplane over to the US Geological Survey's Earth Resources Observations and Science Hazard Data Distribution System. The agencies collate and share information whenever the International Charter on Space and Major Disasters is activated.

Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 Crash Map
Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 Crash Map

The charter was activated on Tuesday following a request by China's Meteorological Administration.

"Both naval vessels and aircraft from at least ten different countries are participating in the search. Satellite imagery is now being employed to search for any evidence of the plane, both before and after it disappeared," says the official charter activation notice.

"No distress signals have been received from the plane and it remains unknown what happened. It has been noted by investigators that it is very unusual for an airliner to simply disappear in such a manner."

According to the latest reports, the engine data sent out from Flight MH370 via the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) before it disappeared reveals that the jet might have continued to fly for an additional five hours after it lost contact with air traffic controllers.

If it had flown for that long, it would likely have travelled over 2,000 nautical miles and deviated from its scheduled flight path.

Relatives of the passengers and crew onboard the ill-fated plane have fuelled speculation by reporting that mobile phones belonging to passengers continued to ring long after the plane was declared missing last Saturday.

However, the phone industry says that the "Phantom Phone" theory was nonsense and that the phone operator generates a ringing sound so that callers don't give up on making a call when they hear no ring tone.

FLIGHT MH370 FACTBOX

Flight MH370 took off from Kuala Lumpur International Airport en route to Beijing at 00:41 on Saturday 8 March (16:41 GMT Friday).

About 50 minutes later, the aircraft lost contact with air traffic control.

No distress call was made.

On board, there were 12 Malaysian crew members and 227 passengers from 14 countries. That included 153 Chinese and 38 Malaysians.

Two Iranian male passengers, Pouria Nour Mohammad Mahread and Delavar Syed Mohammad Reza, were travelling on fake passports. Neither had any apparent links to terrorist groups.

No debris from the plane has been found in the international search.

At least 10 countries, including China, the US and Singapore, were using a total of 42 ships and 39 aircraft to search for the missing plane in the South China Sea, the Malacca Strait and the Andaman Sea.