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How the World’s Largest Signature Is Used by NASA to Analyze Satellite Imagery

In the late 1990’s, when a Texas farmer decided to clear up some new grazing land for his cattle by leaving up just enough trees to spell his name in giant letters, he probably never imagined that his signature would one day be used by NASA to evaluate the quality of their satellite cameras.

Jimmie Luecke was a young Texas state trooper who left the highway patrol in 1980 to try his luck in the oil business. He was lucky enough to do so during the chalk oil boom, became a millionaire, and invested most of his profits in land outside the town of Smithville. He started raising cattle on it, and by the late 1990’s his heard had gotten so large that he needed to clear up some more of his land of trees for grazing. Only he didn’t just settle for bulldozing all the trees, he decided to write his name in the process, thus creating the world’s largest signature.

Photo: Google Earth

The name LUECKE, written out with trees, stretches about three miles on a plot of land near Buescher State Park, outside of Smithville. Each letter measures thousands of feet high, and there’s no doubt that Jimmie Luecke signed his name on his land out of simple egocentrism, but today his signature actually serves a purpose. A few years back, NASA revealed that the LUECKE signature provides a perfect target for astronauts “to estimate the maximum resolution of cameras aboard the space shuttle”. The strips of trees making up the letters also prevent soil erosion, although they don’t necessarily have to be shaped like letters that happen to spell out the land owner’s name…

Photo: YouTube screengrab

Luecke Farm is located directly along major flight paths, including most westbound flights out of Houston, which makes the world’s largest signature a very popular sight for people flying over it. And with the rise of Instagram, I wouldn’t be surprised if some people got on a plane just so they could snap a picture of Jimmy Luecke’s creation.

Photo: NASA Observatory

Interestingly, up until a few years ago, Luecke’s giant signature had some competition for the largest signature in human history. In 2011, eccentric sheikh Hamad Bin Hamdan Al Nahyan carved his first name in the desert of Al Futaysi Island. It measured 1,000 meters by 3,000 meters and was also visible from space. However, the signature was mysteriously erased soon after it made news headlines in western media.