NASA Budget Woes Paint Bleak Future for Earth Science
A new report on the state of NASA’s Earth sciences program warns that future Earth-observing missions could be in jeopardy due to tightening budgets, launch failures, and changing mission priorities that may force projects to be delayed or cancelled outright.
The report from the National Research Council (NRC) found that the nation’s Earth sciences capabilities are beginning a rapid decline, as older, long-running missions come to an end, and new missions are not yet available to replace them.
“The projected loss of observing capability will have profound consequences on science and society, from weather forecasting to responding to natural hazards,” Dennis Hartmann, a professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle, said in a statement. “Our ability to measure and understand changes in Earth’s climate and life support systems will also degrade.”
Hartmann chaired the committee that wrote the report, which is titled “Earth Science and Applications from Space: A Midterm Assessment of NASA’s Implementation of the Decadal Survey.” The study comes five years after the NRC published a sweeping survey that outlined the most pressing objectives over the next 10 years for the country’s Earth observations program.
The decadal survey represents a consensus among the scientific community, and is intended to act as a roadmap for the top priorities in the fields of Earth and environmental sciences.
The new report found that NASA appropriately responded to the recommendations of the decadal survey, but insufficient funding and program changes, as directed by Congress and the White House’s Office of Management and Budget, continue to hinder the agency’s progress.
“The implementation of the decadal survey’s recommendations has proven difficult,” according to the report. “The launch failures of two missions (Orbiting Carbon Observatory and Glory); budgetary shortfalls, the result of both diminished resources and cost growth; and new administration and congressional priorities have resulted in delays, descopes and cancellations.”
The study further identified the lack of a highly reliable and cost-effective medium-class rocket as a hurdle to fulfilling the goals of the decadal survey.
The report noted that NASA has made progress on several recommendations from the NRC’s survey, including expanding suborbital and airborne science programs, and pursuing international partnerships to share resources and migrate around cost restraints.
The study, which was sponsored by NASA, also reviewed the state of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s fleet of Earth-watching satellites. These systems were identified as an integral part of the decadal survey’s strategy, and are closely associated with the success of NASA’s Earth sciences program.
The council found that budget concerns and cost overruns are to blame for the slow progress being made toward NOAA’s next generation of polar environmental satellites.
“An interagency framework, recommended in the decadal survey to assist NASA and NOAA in optimizing resources, has yet to be realized,” NRC officials said in a statement. “This framework is even more crucial now that both agencies face fiscal constraints, and its importance is reiterated in the present report.”
The study concluded that, for the time being, the budget for NASA’s Earth science program will likely remain insufficient for the country’s needs. As a result, NASA should focus on developing a cost-effective approach to designing future missions, and establish a team of scientists and engineers who will act as advisors on how to best execute the priorities detailed in the decadal survey.
This story was provided by OurAmazingPlanet, a sister site to SPACE.com. Follow SPACE.com for the latest in space science and exploration news on Twitter@Spacedotcom and on Facebook.
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^ I’m in a decent mood, so I’m not going to respond to this the way I would like to. However, this article, this topic - should not be on the proverbial “table”. Budget constraints, cuts, losses, downgrades, ultimately - stagnation - should not be an issue for the human race.
I could speak about the billions of dollars spent on military satellites & war-profiteering, but I won’t.
I could talk about the simple & blunt reality that Congress, the White House, the President, the Pentagon, the House, the Senate…all of these silly “official” groups of people making the “big decisions” are supposed to be working for “us”, for the people, but disappointingly, embarrassingly, disgracefully are rapidly forcing us back into the cave.
I could note that the people making these decisions - ultimately deciding our planet’s health, our future (as well as our children’s & future generations’ living conditions) & fate of our species & all other life on this planet - are NOT :
- evolutionary biologists/biologists
- physicists, particle, quantum or otherwise
- engineers/mechanical or otherwise
I shouldn’t need to elaborate further. But I also could point out another significant truth that’s been staring us in the face ever since the beginning of civilization:
The human race can thrive, survive, evolve, explore, create, invent, collaborate, compete, advance, cooperate, discover, love, educate, flourish, provide, establish presence & cultivate inner/outer space colonization, achieve advancements equally amongst all fields of study, nurture/stabilize this planet sustainably, upgrade ancient/outdated technology/ideologies & traditional ways of thinking/interpreting the natural world, overcome false identifications & harmful societal influences/behavioral trends, dissolve ‘borders’ & human-bred labels/identifiers, respect & adhere to nature, learn from, restore & cultivate land & conditions via indigenous cultures, utilize alternative methods of energy on every level possible, achieve higher rates of success over failure due to minor flaws & overlooked procedures (due to budget restraints & rushed projects), guide & inspire a well-informed, scientifically literate & globally-united society of human beings along with efficiently, meticulously & systematically achieve an organic symbiosis of unconditional respect & admiration amongst all races, ethnicities, etc. for a harmonic culture of humans in order to embrace our place in the cosmic perspective of life - (drum roll) - WITHOUT MONEY.
NASA needs to either withdrawal from the U.S. government (& move all operations outside of this country), go on an immediate strike throughout all of their divisions/departments (& worldwide affiliates/partners) for the sake of human evolution/preservation on this planet & into space, or our only actual “hope’ for our future in space & on Earth will be fueled by these privately funded commercial companies (which are only in the position they’re in due to the arbitrary & failed economic/monetary system itself, which is scary).
As Neil deGrasse Tyson usually says, “don’t get me started”….
That is all.