its obligations in other important presidential initiatives, such as the Climate Change Research Initiative and the subsequent Climate Change Science Program. It also calls into question future U.S. leadership in the Global Earth Observing System of Systems, an international effort initiated by the current Administration. The nation’s ability to pursue a visionary space exploration agenda depends critically on its success in applying knowledge of Earth to maintain economic growth and security at home.

Moreover, a substantial reduction in Earth observation programs today will result in a loss of U.S. scientific and technical capacity, which will decrease the competitiveness of the United States internationally for years to come. U.S. leadership in science, technology development, and societal applications depends on sustaining competence across a broad range of scientific and engineering disciplines that include the Earth sciences.

As a result of the recent mission cancellations, budget-induced delays, and mission descopes, the committee finds the existing Earth observing program to be severely deficient. The near-term recommendations presented below describe the minimum set of actions needed to maintain the health of the NASA scientific and technical programs until more comprehensive community recommendations are made in the final report of the survey. They address deficiencies in the current program at NASA and some of the emerging needs of NOAA and the USGS. The committee’s recommendations address issues in six interrelated areas:

  1. Canceled, descoped, or delayed Earth observation missions;

  2. Prospects for the transfer of capabilities from some canceled or descoped NASA missions to NPOESS;

  3. The adequacy of the technological base for future missions;

  4. The status and future prospects of NASA Earth science Explorer-class missions;

  5. The adequacy of research and analysis programs to support future programs; and

  6. Development of baseline climate observations and data records.


Proceed with GPM and GIFTS

Recently, six NASA missions with clear societal benefits and the established support of the Earth science and applications community have been delayed, descoped, or canceled. Two of these missions should proceed immediately:

  • Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM). The Global Precipitation Measurement mission is an international effort to improve climate, weather, and hydrological predictions through more accurate and more frequent precipitation measurements. GPM science will be conducted through an international partnership led by NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). Water cycling and the availability of fresh water resources, including their predicted states, are of critical concern to all nations, and precipitation is the fundamental driver of virtually all water issues, including those concerned with national security. GPM is the follow-on to the highly successful Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission, which is nearing the end of operations.4 It is an approved mission that has been delayed several times by NASA.


National Research Council, Assessment of the Benefits of Extending the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission: A Perspective from the Research and Operations Communities, Interim Report, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2005, in press.

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