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Space Studies Board: Annual Report 2007 5.6 Earth Science and Applications from Space: National Imperatives for the Next Decade and Beyond A Report of the Ad Hoc Committee on Earth Science and Applications from Space: A Community Assessment and Strategy for the Future Executive Summary A VISION FOR THE FUTURE Understanding the complex, changing planet on which we live, how it supports life, and how human activities affect its ability to do so in the future is one of the greatest intellectual challenges facing humanity. It is also one of the most important challenges for society as it seeks to achieve prosperity, health, and sustainability. These declarations, first made in the interim report of the Committee on Earth Science and Applications from Space: A Community Assessment and Strategy for the Future,1 are the foundation of the committee’s vision for a decadal program of Earth science research and applications in support of society—a vision that includes advances in fundamental understanding of the Earth system and increased application of this understanding to serve the nation and the people of the world. The declarations call for a renewal of the national commitment to a program of Earth observations in which attention to securing practical benefits for humankind plays an equal role with the quest to acquire new knowledge about the Earth system. The committee strongly reaffirms these declarations in the present report, which completes the National Research Council’s (NRC’s) response to a request from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Office of Earth Science, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Environmental Satellite Data and Information Service, and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Geography Division to generate consensus recommendations from the Earth and environmental science and applications communities regarding (1) high-priority flight missions and activities to support national needs for research and monitoring of the dynamic Earth system during the next decade, and (2) important directions that should influence planning for the decade beyond.2 The national strategy outlined here has as its overarching objective a program of scientific discovery and development of applications that will enhance economic competitiveness, protect life and property, and assist in the stewardship of the planet for this and future generations. Earth observations from satellites and in situ collection sites are critical for an ever-increasing number of applications related to the health and well-being of society. The committee found that fundamental improvements are needed in existing observation and information systems because they only loosely connect three key elements: (1) the raw observations that produce information; (2) the analyses, forecasts, and models that provide timely and coherent syntheses of otherwise disparate information; and (3) the decision processes that use those analyses and forecasts to produce actions with direct societal benefits. Taking responsibility for developing and connecting these three elements in support of society’s needs represents a new social contract for the scientific community. The scientific community must focus on meeting the demands of society explicitly, in addition to satisfying its curiosity about how the Earth system works. In addition, the federal institutions responsible for the Earth sciences’ contributions to protection of life and property, strategic economic development, and stewardship of the planet will also need to change. In particular, the clarity with which Congress links financial resources with societal objectives, and provides oversight to ensure that these objectives are met, must keep pace with emerging national needs. Individual agencies must develop an integrated framework NOTE: “Executive Summary” reprinted from Earth Science and Applications from Space: National Imperatives for the Next Decade and Beyond, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2007, pp. 1-16. 1 National Research Council (NRC), Earth Science and Applications from Space: Urgent Needs and Opportunities to Serve the Nation, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2005, p. 1; referred to hereafter as the “interim report.” 2 The other elements of the committee’s charge are shown in Appendix A. As explained in the Preface, the committee focused its attention on items 2, 3, and 4 of the charge.
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Space Studies Board: Annual Report 2007 that transcends their particular interests, with clear responsibilities and budget authority for achieving the most urgent societal objectives. Therefore, the committee offers the following overarching recommendation: Recommendation: The U.S. government, working in concert with the private sector, academe, the public, and its international partners, should renew its investment in Earth-observing systems and restore its leadership in Earth science and applications. The objectives of these partnerships would be to facilitate improvements that are needed in the structure, connectivity, and effectiveness of Earth-observing capabilities, research, and associated information and application systems—not only to answer profound scientific questions, but also to effectively apply new knowledge in pursuit of societal benefits. The world faces significant environmental challenges: shortages of clean and accessible freshwater, degradation of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, increases in soil erosion, changes in the chemistry of the atmosphere, declines in fisheries, and the likelihood of substantial changes in climate. These changes are not isolated; they interact with each other and with natural variability in complex ways that cascade through the environment across local, regional, and global scales. Addressing these societal challenges requires that we confront key scientific questions related to ice sheets and sea-level change, large-scale and persistent shifts in precipitation and water availability, transcontinental air pollution, shifts in ecosystem structure and function in response to climate change, impacts of climate change on human health, and the occurrence of extreme events, such as severe storms, heat waves, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions. The key questions include: Will there be catastrophic collapse of the major ice sheets, including those of Greenland and West Antarctic and, if so, how rapidly will this occur? What will be the time patterns of sea-level rise as a result? Will droughts become more widespread in the western United States, Australia, and sub-Saharan Africa? How will this affect the patterns of wildfires? How will reduced amounts of snowfall change the needs for water storage? How will continuing economic development affect the production of air pollutants, and how will these pollutants be transported across oceans and continents? How are these pollutants transformed during the transport process? How will coastal and ocean ecosystems respond to changes in physical forcing, particularly those subject to intense human harvesting? How will the boreal forest shift as temperature and precipitation change at high latitudes? What will be the impacts on animal migration patterns and on the prevalence of invasive species? Will previously rare diseases become common? How will mosquito-borne viruses spread with changes in rainfall and drought? Can we better predict the outbreak of avian flu? What are the health impacts of an expanded ozone hole that could result from a cooling of the stratosphere, which would be associated with climate change? Will tropical cyclones and heat waves become more frequent and more intense? Are major fault systems nearing the release of stress via strong earthquakes? The required observing system is one that builds on the current fleet of space-based instruments and brings to a new level of integration our understanding of the Earth system. SETTING THE FOUNDATION: OBSERVATIONS IN THE CURRENT DECADE As documented in this report, the extraordinary U.S. foundation of global observations is at great risk. Between 2006 and the end of the decade, the number of operating missions will decrease dramatically, and the number of operating sensors and instruments on NASA spacecraft, most of which are well past their nominal lifetimes, will decrease by some 40 percent (see Figures ES.1 and ES.2). Furthermore, the replacement sensors to be flown on the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS)3 are generally less capable than their Earth Observing System (EOS) counterparts.4 Among the many measurements expected to cease over the next few years, the committee has identified several that are providing critical information now and 3 See a description at http://www.ipo.noaa.gov/. 4 NASA’s Earth Observing System (EOS) includes a series of satellites, a science component, and a data system supporting a coordinated series of polar-orbiting and low-inclination satellites for long-term global observations of the land surface, biosphere, solid Earth, atmosphere, and oceans. See http://eospso.gsfc.nasa.gov/eos_homepage/description.php.
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Space Studies Board: Annual Report 2007 FIGURE ES.1 Number of U.S. space-based Earth observation missions in the current decade. An emphasis on climate and weather is evident, as is a decline in the number of missions near the end of the decade. For the period from 2007 to 2010, missions were generally assumed to operate for 4 years past their nominal lifetimes. Most of the missions were deemed to contribute at least slightly to human health issues, and so health is not presented as a separate category. SOURCE: Information from NASA and NOAA Web sites for mission durations. FIGURE ES.2 Number of U.S. space-based Earth observation instruments in the current decade. An emphasis on climate and weather is evident, as is a decline in the number of instruments near the end of the decade. For the period from 2007 to 2010, missions were generally assumed to operate for 4 years past their nominal lifetimes. Most of the missions were deemed to contribute at least slightly to human health issues, and so health is not presented as a separate category. SOURCE: Information from NASA and NOAA Web sites for mission durations.
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Space Studies Board: Annual Report 2007 that need to be sustained into the next decade—both to continue important time series and to provide the foundation necessary for the recommended future observations. These include measurements of total solar irradiance and Earth radiation and vector sea-surface winds; limb sounding of ozone profiles; and temperature and water vapor soundings from geostationary and polar orbits.5 As highlighted in the committee’s interim report, there is substantial concern that substitution of passive microwave sensor data for active scatterometry data will worsen El Niño and hurricane forecasts as well as weather forecasts in coastal areas.6 Given the status of existing surface wind measurements and the substantial uncertainty introduced by the cancellation of the CMIS instrument on NPOESS, the committee believes it imperative that a measurement capability be available to prevent a data gap when the NASA QuikSCAT mission, already well past its nominal mission lifetime, terminates. Questions about the future of wind measurement capabilities are part of a larger set of issues related to the development of a mitigation strategy to recover capabilities lost in the recently announced descoping and cancellations of instruments and spacecraft planned for the NPOESS constellation. A request for the committee to perform a fast-track analysis of these issues was approved by the NRC shortly before this report was released. Nevertheless, based on its analysis to date, the committee makes the following recommendations: Recommendation:7 NOAA should restore several key climate, environmental, and weather observation capabilities to its planned NPOESS and GOES-R8 missions; namely: Measurements of ocean vector winds and all-weather sea-surface temperatures descoped from the NPOESS C1 launch should be restored to provide continuity until the CMIS replacement is operational on NPOESS C2 and higher-quality active scatterometer measurements (from XOVWM, described in Table ES.1) can be undertaken later in the next decade. The limb sounding capability of the Ozone Monitoring and Profiling Suite (OMPS) on NPOESS should be restored.9 The committee also recommends that NOAA: Ensure the continuity of measurements of Earth’s radiation budget (ERB) and total solar irradiance (TSI) through the period when the NPOESS spacecraft will be in orbit by: Incorporating on the NPOESS Preparatory Project (NPP)10 spacecraft the existing “spare” CERES instrument, and, if possible, a TSI sensor, and Incorporating these or similar instruments on the NPOESS spacecraft that will follow NPP, or ensuring that measurements of TSI and ERB are obtained by other means. 5 As discussed in the Preface and in more detail in Chapter 2, the continuity of a number of other critical measurements, such as sea-surface temperature, is dependent on the acquisition of a suitable instrument on NPOESS to replace the now-canceled CMIS sensor. 6 Also, see pp. 4-5 of the Oceans Community Letter to the Decadal Survey, available at http://cioss.coas.oregonstate.edu/CIOSS/Documents/Oceans_Community_Letter.pdf, and the report of the NOAA Operational Ocean Surface Vector Winds Requirements Workshop, June 5-7, 2006, National Hurricane Center, Miami, Fla., P. Chang and Z. Jelenak, eds. 7 Inaccurate wording of this four-part recommendation in the initially released prepublication copy of this report was subsequently corrected by the committee to reflect its intent to recommend a capability for ensuring continuity of the ongoing record of measurements of total solar irradiance and of Earth’s radiation budget. As explained in the description of the CLARREO mission in Chapter 4, the committee recommends that the CERES Earth radiation budget instrument and a total solar irradiance sensor be flown on the NPOESS Preparatory Project (NPP) satellite and that these instruments or their equivalent be carried on the NPOESS spacecraft or another suitable platform. 8 GOES-R is the designation for the next generation of geostationary operational environmental satellites (GOES). See https://osd.goes.noaa.gov/ and http://goespoes.gsfc.nasa.gov/goes/spacecraft/r_spacecraft.html. The first launch of the GOES-R series satellite was recently delayed from the 2012 time frame to December 2014. 9 Without this capability, no national or international ozone-profiling capability will exist after the EOS Aura mission ends in 2010. This capability is key to monitoring ozone-layer recovery in the next two decades and is part of NOAA’s mandate through the Clean Air Act. 10 The NASA-managed NPP, a joint mission involving NASA and the NPOESS Integrated Program Office (IPO), has a twofold purpose: (1) to provide continuity for a selected set of calibrated observations with the existing Earth Observing System measurements for Earth science research and (2) to provide risk reduction for four of the key sensors that will fly on NPOESS, as well as the command and data-handling system. The earliest launch set for NPP is now September 2009, a delay of nearly 3 years from the plans that existed prior to the 2006 Nunn-McCurdy recertification. See http://jointmission.gsfc.nasa.gov/ and http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/150011main_NASA_Testimony_for_NPOESS-FINAL.pdf.
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Space Studies Board: Annual Report 2007 Develop a strategy to restore the previously planned capability to make high-temporal- and high-vertical-resolution measurements of temperature and water vapor from geosynchronous orbit. The high-temporal- and high-vertical-resolution measurements of temperature and water vapor from geosynchronous orbit were originally to be delivered by the Hyperspectral Environmental Sensor (HES) on the GOES-R spacecraft. Recognizing the technological challenges and accompanying potential for growth in acquisition costs for HES, the committee recommends consideration of the following approaches: Working with NASA, complete the GIFTS instrument, deliver it to orbit via a cost-effective launch and spacecraft opportunity, and evaluate its potential to be a prototype for the HES instrument, and/or Extend the HES study contracts focusing on cost-effective approaches to achieving essential sounding capabilities to be flown in the GOES-R time frame. The committee believes that such approaches will both strengthen the technological foundation of geostationary Earth orbit (GEO)-based soundings and provide the requisite experience for efficient operational implementation of GEO-based soundings. The recommendations above focus on issues whose resolution requires action by NOAA. The committee also notes two issues of near-term concern mostly for NASA: Understanding the changing global precipitation patterns that result from changing climate, and Understanding the changing patterns of land use due to the needs of a growing population, the expansion and contraction of economies, and the intensification of agriculture. Both of these concerns have been highlighted in the scientific and policy literature;11 they were also highlighted in the committee’s interim report. The committee believes that it is vital to maintain global precipitation measurements as offered by the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) mission, and to continue to document biosphere changes indicated by measurements made with instruments on the Landsat series of spacecraft. Recommendation: NASA should ensure continuity of measurements of precipitation and land cover by: Launching the GPM mission in or before 2012, and Securing before 2012 a replacement for collection of Landsat 7 data. The committee also recommends that NASA continue to seek cost-effective, innovative means for obtaining information on land cover change. Sustained measurements of these key climate and weather variables are part of the committee’s strategy to achieve its vision for an Earth observation and information system in the next decade. The recommended new system of observations that will help deliver that vision is described below. NEW OBSERVATIONS FOR THE NEXT DECADE The primary work in developing a decadal strategy for Earth observation took place within the survey’s seven thematically organized panels (see Preface). Six of the panels were organized to address multidiscipline issues in climate change, water resources, ecosystem health, human health, solid-Earth natural hazards, and weather. This categorization is similar to the organizing structure used in the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS) process. Each panel first set priorities among an array of candidate space-based measurement approaches and mission concepts by applying the criteria shown in Box ES.1. The assessment and subsequent prioritization were based on an overall analysis by panel members of how well each mission satisfied the criteria and high- 11 For example, see the IPCC Third Assessment Report, Climate Change 2001, available at http://www.ipcc.ch/pub/reports.htm or at http://www.grida.no/climate/ipcc_tar/, and the 2005 Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Synthesis reports, which are available at http://www.maweb.org/en/Products.aspx#.
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Space Studies Board: Annual Report 2007 BOX ES.1 CRITERIA USED BY THE PANELS TO CREATE RELATIVE RANKINGS OF MISSIONS Contribution to the most important scientific questions facing Earth sciences today (scientific merit, discovery, exploration) Contribution to applications and policy making (societal benefits) Contribution to long-term observational record of Earth Ability to complement other observational systems, including planned national and international systems Affordability (cost considerations, either total costs for mission or costs per year) Degree of readiness (technical, resources, people) Risk mitigation and strategic redundancy (backup of other critical systems) Significant contribution to more than one thematic application or scientific discipline Note that these guidelines are not in priority order, and they may not reflect all of the criteria considered by the panels. level community objectives. Recommendations in previous community-based reports, such as those of the World Meteorological Organization, were also considered. The complete set of high-priority missions and observations identified by the panels numbered approximately 35, a substantial reduction from the more than 100 missions suggested in the responses to the committee’s request for information (see Appendixes D and E) and numerous other mission ideas suggested by panel members (see Table 2.3). The panel reports in Part III of this report document the panels’ analyses. As described in Chapter 2, the committee derived a total of 17 missions for implementation by NASA and NOAA. In developing the recommended set of missions, the committee recognized that a successful Earth observation program is more than the sum of its parts. The committee’s prioritization methodology was designed to achieve a robust, integrated program—one that does not crumble if one or several missions in the prioritized list are removed or delayed or if the mission list must evolve to accommodate changing needs. The methodology was also intended to enable augmentation or enhancement of the program should additional resources become available beyond those anticipated by the committee. Robustness is thus measured by the strength of the overall program, not by the particular missions on the list. It is the range of observations that must be protected rather than the individual missions themselves. The committee’s recommended Earth observation strategy consists of: 14 missions for implementation by NASA, 2 missions for implementation by NOAA, and 1 mission (CLARREO) that has separate components for implementation by NASA and NOAA. These 17 missions are summarized in Tables ES.1 (NOAA portion) and ES.2 (NASA portion). The recommended observing strategy is consistent with the recommendations from the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), the U.S. Climate Change Science Program (CCSP), and the U.S. component of GEOSS. Most importantly, the observing strategy enables significant progress across the range of important societal issues. The number of recommended missions and associated observations is only a fraction of the number of currently operating Earth missions and observations (see Figures ES.1 and ES.2). The committee believes strongly that the missions listed in Tables ES.1 and ES.2 form a minimal, yet robust, observational component of an Earth information system that is capable of addressing a broad range of societal needs. Recommendation: In addition to implementing the re-baselined NPOESS and GOES program and completing research missions currently in development, NASA and NOAA should undertake the set of
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Space Studies Board: Annual Report 2007 TABLE ES.1 Launch, Orbit, and Instrument Specifications for Missions Recommended to NOAA Decadal Survey Mission Mission Description Orbita Instruments Rough Cost Estimate (FY 06 $million) 2010-2013 CLARREO (instrument reflight components) Solar and Earth radiation characteristics for understanding climate forcing LEO, SSO Broadband radiometer 65 GPSRO High-accuracy, all-weather temperature, water vapor, and electron density profiles for weather, climate, and space weather LEO GPS receiver 150 2013-2016 XOVWM Sea-surface wind vectors for weather and ocean ecosystems LEO, SSO Backscatter radar 350 NOTE: Missions are listed by cost. Mission costs, estimated by the committee, are categorized as medium-cost ($300 million to $600 million) and small-cost (<$300 million). The missions are described in detail in Part II, and Part III provides the foundation for selection. aLEO, low Earth orbit; SSO, Sun-synchronous orbit. 17 missions12 recommended in Tables ES.1 and ES.2 comprising low-cost (<$300 million), medium-cost ($300 million to $600 million), and large-cost ($600 million to $900 million) missions and phased appropriately over the next decade.13 Larger, facility-class (>$1 billion) missions are not recommended. As part of this strategy: NOAA should transition to operations three research observations. These are vector sea-surface winds; GPS radio occultation temperature, water vapor, and electron density soundings; and total solar irradiance (restored to NPOESS). Approaches to these transitions are provided through the recommended XOVWM, GPSRO, and CLARREO missions listed in Table ES.1. NASA should implement a set of 15 missions phased over the next decade. All of the appropriate low Earth orbit (LEO) missions should include a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver to augment operational measurements of temperature and water vapor. The missions and their specifications are listed in Table ES.2. In developing its plan, the committee exploited both science and measurement synergies among the various priority missions of the individual panels to create a capable and affordable observing system. For example, the committee recognized that ice sheet change, solid-Earth hazards, and ecosystem health objectives are together well addressed by a combination of radar and lidar instrumentation. As a result, a pair of missions flying in the same time frame was devised to address the three societal issues. The phasing of missions over the next decade was driven primarily by consideration of the maturity of key prediction and forecasting tools and the timing of particular observations needed for maintaining or improving those tools. For established applications with a clear operational use, such as numerical weather prediction (NWP), the need for routine vector sea-surface wind observations and atmospheric temperature and water vapor soundings by relatively mature instrument techniques set the early phasing, and these capabilities are recommended to 12 One mission, CLARREO, has two components—a NASA component and a separate NOAA component. 13 Tables ES.1 and ES.2 include cost estimates for the 17 missions. These estimates include costs for development, launch, and 3 years of operation for NASA research missions and 5 years of operation for NOAA operational missions. Estimates also include funding of a science team to work on algorithms and data preparation, but not funding for research and analysis to extract science from the data. All estimates are in fiscal year 2006 dollars.
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Space Studies Board: Annual Report 2007 TABLE ES.2 Launch, Orbit, and Instrument Specifications for Missions Recommended to NASA Decadal Survey Mission Mission Description Orbita Instruments Rough Cost Estimate (FY 06 $million) 2010-2013 CLARREO (NASA portion) Solar and Earth radiation; spectrally resolved forcing and response of the climate system LEO, Precessing Absolute, spectrally resolved interferometer 200 SMAP Soil moisture and freeze-thaw for weather and water cycle processes LEO, SSO L-band radar L-band radiometer 300 ICESat-II Ice sheet height changes for climate change diagnosis LEO, Non-SSO Laser altimeter 300 DESDynI Surface and ice sheet deformation for understanding natural hazards and climate; vegetation structure for ecosystem health LEO, SSO L-band InSAR Laser altimeter 700 2013-2016 HyspIRI Land surface composition for agriculture and mineral characterization; vegetation types for ecosystem health LEO, SSO Hyperspectral spectrometer 300 ASCENDS Day/night, all-latitude, all-season CO2 column integrals for climate emissions LEO, SSO Multifrequency laser 400 SWOT Ocean, lake, and river water levels for ocean and inland water dynamics LEO, SSO Ka- or Ku-band radar Ku-band altimeter Microwave radiometer 450 GEO-CAPE Atmospheric gas columns for air quality forecasts; ocean color for coastal ecosystem health and climate emissions GEO High-spatial-resolution hyperspectral spectrometer Low-spatial-resolution imaging spectrometer IR correlation radiometer 550 ACE Aerosol and cloud profiles for climate and water cycle; ocean color for open ocean biogeochemistry LEO, SSO Backscatter lidar Multiangle polarimeter Doppler radar 800 2016-2020 LIST Land surface topography for landslide hazards and water runoff LEO, SSO Laser altimeter 300 PATH High-frequency, all-weather temperature and humidity soundings for weather forecasting and sea-surface temperatureb GEO Microwave array spectrometer 450 GRACE-II High-temporal-resolution gravity fields for tracking large-scale water movement LEO, SSO Microwave or laser ranging system 450 SCLP Snow accumulation for freshwater availability LEO, SSO Ku- and X-band radars K- and Ka-band radiometers 500 GACM Ozone and related gases for intercontinental air quality and stratospheric ozone layer prediction LEO, SSO UV spectrometer IR spectrometer Microwave limb sounder 600 3D-Winds (Demo) Tropospheric winds for weather forecasting and pollution transport LEO, SSO Doppler lidar 650 NOTE: Missions are listed by cost. Mission costs, as estimated by the committee, are categorized as large-cost ($600 million to $900 million), medium-cost ($300 million to $600 million), and small-cost (<$300 million). Detailed descriptions of the missions are given in Part II, and Part III provides the foundation for their selection. aLEO, low Earth orbit; SSO, Sun-synchronous orbit; GEO, geostationary Earth orbit. bCloud-independent, high-temporal-resolution, lower-accuracy sea-surface temperature measurement to complement, not replace, global operational high-accuracy sea-surface temperature measurement.
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Space Studies Board: Annual Report 2007 NOAA for implementation. For less mature applications, such as earthquake forecasting and mitigation models, the committee recommends obtaining new surface-deformation observations early in the decade to accelerate tool improvements. Observations of this type, which are more research-oriented, are recommended to NASA for implementation. In setting the mission timing, the committee also considered mission costs relative to what it considered reasonable future budgets, technology readiness, and the potential of international missions to provide alternative sources of select observations. Rough cost estimates and technology readiness information for proposed missions were provided to the committee by NASA or culled from available information on current missions. The committee decided not to include possible cost sharing by international partners because such relationships are sometimes difficult to quantify. Cost sharing could reduce significantly the U.S. costs of the missions. Given the relatively large uncertainties attached to cost and technology-readiness estimates, the committee chose to sequence missions among three broad periods in the next decade, namely, 2010-2013, 2013-2016, and 2016-2020. Missions seen to require significant technology development—such as high-power, multifrequency lasers for three-dimensional winds and aerosol and ozone profiling, and thin-array microwave antennas and receivers for temperature and water vapor soundings—were targeted for either the middle or late periods of the next decade; the exact placement depended on the perceived scientific and forecasting impact of the proposed observations (see Chapter 2). Large uncertainties are also associated with attempts to factor international partner missions into the timing of U.S. missions during the next decade. For example, at the beginning of the next decade, there are international plans for GCOM-C (2011) and EarthCARE (2012), missions that are aimed at observing aerosol and clouds. As a result, the committee targeted for a later time a U.S. mission to explore cloud and aerosol interactions. The European Space Agency’s Earth Explorer program has recently selected six mission concepts for Phase A studies, from which it will select one or two for launch in about 2013. All of the Phase A study concepts carry potential value for the broader Earth science community and provide overlap with missions recommended by this committee. Accordingly, the committee recognizes the importance of maintaining flexibility in the NASA observing program to leverage possible international activities, either by appropriate sequencing of complementary NASA and international partner missions or by exploring possible combinations of appropriate U.S. and internationally developed instruments on various launch opportunities. The set of recommended missions listed in Tables ES.1 and ES. 2 reflects an integrated, cohesive, and carefully sequenced mission plan that addresses the range of urgent societal benefit areas. Although the launch order of the missions represents, in a practical sense, a priority order, it is important to recognize that the many factors involved in developing the mission plan preclude such a simple prioritization (see discussion in Chapter 3 and decision strategies summarized in Box ES.2). The missions recommended for NASA do not fit neatly within the existing structure of the systematic mission line (i.e., strategic and/or continuous measurements typically assigned to a NASA center for implementation) and the Earth System Science Pathfinder (ESSP) mission line (i.e., exploratory measurements that are competed community-wide). The committee considers all of the recommended missions to be strategic in nature, but recognizes that some of the less complex and less technically challenging missions could be competed rather than assigned. The committee notes that historically the broader Earth science research community’s involvement in space-borne missions has been almost exclusively in concert with various implementing NASA centers. Accordingly, the committee advises NASA to seek to implement the recommended set of missions as part of one strategic program, or mission line, using both competitive and noncompetitive methods to create a timely and effective program. The observing system envisioned here will help to establish a firm and sustainable foundation for Earth science and associated societal benefits in the year 2020 and beyond. It can be achieved through effective management of technology advances and international partnerships, and through broad use of space-based science data by the research and decision-making communities. In looking beyond the next decade, the committee recognizes the need to learn from implementation of the 17 recommended missions and to efficiently move select research observations to operational status. These steps will create new space-based observing opportunities, foster new science leaders, and facilitate the implementation of revolutionary ideas. With those objectives in mind, the committee makes the following recommendation: Recommendation: U.S. civil space agencies should aggressively pursue technology development that supports the missions recommended in Tables ES.1 and ES.2; plan for transitions to continue demonstrably
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Space Studies Board: Annual Report 2007 BOX ES.2 PROGRAMMATIC DECISION STRATEGIES AND RULES Leverage International Efforts Restructure or defer missions if international partners select missions that meet most of the measurement objectives of the recommended missions; then (1) through dialogue establish data-access agreements, and (2) establish science teams to use the data in support of the science and societal objectives. Where appropriate, offer cost-effective additions to international missions that help extend the values of those missions. These actions should yield significant information in the identified areas at substantially less cost to the partners. Manage Technology Risk Sequence missions according to technological readiness and budget risk factors. The budget risk consideration may favor initiating lower-cost missions first. However, technology investments should be made across all recommended missions. Reduce cost risk on recommended missions by investing early in the technological challenges of the missions. If there are insufficient funds to execute the missions in the recommended time frames, it is still important to make advances on the key technological hurdles. Establish technology readiness through documented technology demonstrations before a mission’s development phase, and certainly before mission confirmation. Respond to Budget Pressures and Shortfalls Delay downstream missions in the event of small (~10 percent) cost growth in mission development. Protect the overarching observational program by canceling missions that substantially overrun. Implement a system-wide independent review process that permits decisions regarding technical capabilities, cost, and schedule to be made in the context of the overarching science objectives. Programmatic decisions on potential delays or reductions in the capabilities of a particular mission could then be evaluated in light of the overall mission set and integrated requirements. Maintain a broad research program under significantly reduced agency funds by accepting greater mission risk rather than descoping missions and science requirements. Aggressively seek international and commercial partners to share mission costs. If necessary, eliminate specific missions related to a theme rather than whole themes. In the event of large budget shortfalls, re-evaluate the entire set of missions in light of an assessment of the current state of international global Earth observations, plans, needs, and opportunities. Seek advice from the broad community of Earth scientists and users and modify the long-term strategy (rather than dealing with one mission at a time). Maintain narrow, focused operational and sustained research programs rather than attempting to expand capabilities by accepting greater risk. Limit thematic scope and confine instrument capabilities to those well demonstrated by previous research instruments. useful research observations on a sustained, or operational, basis; and foster innovative space-based concepts. In particular: NASA should increase investment in both mission-focused and cross-cutting technology development to decrease technical risk in the recommended missions and promote cost reduction across multiple missions. Early technology-focused investments through extended mission Phase A studies are essential. To restore more frequent launch opportunities and to facilitate the demonstration of innovative ideas and higher-risk technologies, NASA should create a new Venture class of low-cost research and application missions (~$100 million to $200 million). These missions should focus on fostering revolutionary innovation and on training future leaders of space-based Earth science and applications.
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Space Studies Board: Annual Report 2007 NOAA should increase investment in identifying and facilitating the transition of demonstrably useful research observations to operational use. The Venture class of missions, in particular, would replace and be very different from the current ESSP mission line, which is increasingly a competitive means for implementing NASA’s strategic missions. Priority would be given to cost-effective, innovative missions rather than those with excessive scientific and technological requirements. The Venture class could include stand-alone missions that use simple, small instruments, spacecraft, and launch vehicles; more complex instruments of opportunity flown on partner spacecraft and launch vehicles; or complex sets of instruments flown on suitable suborbital platforms to address focused sets of scientific questions. These missions could focus on establishing new research avenues or on demonstrating key application-oriented measurements. Key to the success of such a program will be maintaining a steady stream of opportunities for community participation in the development of innovative ideas, which requires that strict schedule and cost guidelines be enforced for the program participants. TURNING SATELLITE OBSERVATIONS INTO KNOWLEDGE AND INFORMATION Translating raw observations of Earth into useful information requires sophisticated scientific and applications techniques. The recommended mission plan is but one part of this larger program, all elements of which must be executed if the overall Earth research and applications enterprise is to succeed. The objective is to establish a program that is effective in its use of resources, is resilient in the face of the evolving constraints within which any program must operate, and is able to embrace new opportunities as they arise. Among the key additional elements of the overall program that must be supported to achieve the decadal vision are (1) sustained observations from space for research and monitoring, (2) surface-based and airborne observations that are necessary for a complete observing system, (3) models and data assimilation systems that allow effective use of the observations to make useful analyses and forecasts, and (4) planning and other activities that strengthen and sustain the Earth observation and information system. Obtaining observations that serve the full array of science and societal challenges requires a hierarchy of measurement types, ranging from first-ever exploratory measurements to long-term, continuous measurements. Long-term observations can be focused on scientific challenges (sustained observations) or on specific societal applications (operational measurements). There is connectivity between sustained research observations and operational systems. Operational systems perform forecasting or monitoring functions, but the observations and products that result, such as weather forecasts, are also useful for many research purposes. Similarly, sustained observations, although focused on research questions, clearly include an aspect of monitoring and may be used operationally. While exploratory, sustained, and operational measurements often share the need for new technology, careful calibration, and long-term stability, there are also important differences among them; exploratory, sustained, and operational Earth observations are distinct yet overlapping categories. An efficient and effective Earth observation system requires a continuing interagency evaluation of the capabilities and potential applications of numerous current and planned missions for transition of fundamental science missions into operational observation programs. The committee is particularly concerned about the lack of clear agency responsibility for sustained research programs and the transitioning of proof-of-concept measurements into sustained measurement systems. To address societal and research needs, both the quality and the continuity of the measurement record must be ensured through the transition of short-term, exploratory capabilities into sustained observing systems. Transition failures have been exhaustively described in previous reports,14 whose recommendations the present committee endorses. The elimination from NPOESS of requirements for climate research-related measurements is only the most recent example of the nation’s failure to sustain critical measurements. The committee notes that despite NASA’s involvement in climate research and its extensive development of measurement technology to make climate-quality measurements, the agency has no requirement for extended measurement missions, except for ozone measurements, which are explicitly mandated by Congress. The committee endorses the recommendation of a 2006 14 NRC, From Research to Operations in Weather Satellites and Numerical Weather Prediction: Crossing the Valley of Death, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 2000, and NRC, Satellite Observations of the Earth’s Environment: Accelerating the Transition of Research to Operations, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2003.
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Space Studies Board: Annual Report 2007 National Research Council report that stated, “NASA/SMD [Science Mission Directorate] should develop a science strategy for obtaining long-term, continuous, stable observations of the Earth system that are distinct from observations to meet requirements by NOAA in support of numerical weather prediction.”15 The committee is concerned that the nation’s civil space institutions (including NASA, NOAA, and USGS) are not adequately prepared to meet society’s rapidly evolving Earth information needs. These institutions have responsibilities that are in many cases mismatched with their authorities and resources: institutional mandates are inconsistent with agency charters, budgets are not well matched to emerging needs, and shared responsibilities are supported inconsistently by mechanisms for cooperation. These are issues whose solutions will require action at high levels of the federal government. Thus, the committee makes the following recommendation: Recommendation: The Office of Science and Technology Policy, in collaboration with the relevant agencies and in consultation with the scientific community, should develop and implement a plan for achieving and sustaining global Earth observations. This plan should recognize the complexity of differing agency roles, responsibilities, and capabilities as well as the lessons from implementation of the Landsat, EOS, and NPOESS programs. The space-based observations recommended by the committee will provide a global view of many Earth system processes. However, satellite observations have limited spatial and temporal resolution and hence do not alone provide a picture of the Earth system that is sufficient for understanding all of the key physical, chemical, and biological processes. In addition, satellites do not directly observe many of the changes in human societies that are affected by, or will affect, the environment. To build the requisite knowledge for addressing urgent societal issues, data are also needed from suborbital and land-based platforms, as well as from socio-demographic studies. The committee finds that greater attention is needed to the entire chain of observations from research to applications and benefits. Regarding complementary observations, the committee makes the following recommendations: Recommendation: Earth system observations should be accompanied by a complementary system of observations of human activities and their effects on Earth. Recommendation: Socioeconomic factors should be considered in the planning and implementation of Earth observation missions and in developing an Earth knowledge and information system. Recommendation: Critical surface-based (land and ocean) and upper-air atmospheric sounding networks should be sustained and enhanced as necessary to satisfy climate and other Earth science needs in addition to weather forecasting and prediction. Recommendation: To facilitate the synthesis of scientific data and discovery into coherent and timely information for end users, NASA should support Earth science research via suborbital platforms: airborne programs, which have suffered substantial diminution, should be restored, and unmanned aerial vehicle technology should be increasingly factored into the nation’s strategic plan for Earth science. Myriad steps are necessary for providing quantitative information, analyses, and predictions for important geophysical and socioeconomic variables over the range of needed time scales. The value of the recommended missions can be realized only through a high-priority and complementary focus on modeling, data assimilation, data archiving and distribution, and research and analysis.16 To this end, the committee makes the following recommendations: 15 NRC, “A Review of NASA’s 2006 Draft Science Plan: Letter Report,” The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2006, p. iv. 16 NASA’s research and analysis (R&A) program has customarily supplied funds for enhancing fundamental understanding in a discipline and stimulating the questions from which new scientific investigations flow. R&A studies also enable conversion of raw instrument data into fields of geophysical variables and are an essential component in support of the research required to convert data analyses to trends, processes, and improvements in simulation models. They are likewise necessary for improving calibrations and evaluating the limits of both remote and in situ data. Without adequate R&A, the large and complex task of acquiring, processing, and archiving geophysical data would go for naught. Finally, the next generation of Earth scientists—the graduate students in universities—are often educated by performing research that has originated in R&A efforts. See NRC, Earth Observations from Space: History, Promise, and Reality (Executive Summary), National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 1995.
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Space Studies Board: Annual Report 2007 Recommendations: Teams of experts should be formed to consider assimilation of data from multiple sensors and all sources, including commercial providers and international partners. NOAA, working with the Climate Change Science Program and the international Group on Earth Observations, should create a climate data and information system to meet the challenge of ensuring the production, distribution, and stewardship of high-accuracy climate records from NPOESS and other relevant observational platforms. As new Earth observation missions are developed, early attention should be given to developing the requisite data processing and distribution system, and data archive. Distribution of data should be free or at low cost to users, and provided in an easily accessible manner. NASA should increase support for its research and analysis (R&A) program to a level commensurate with its ongoing and planned missions. Further, in light of the need for a healthy R&A program that is not mission-specific, as well as the need for mission-specific R&A, NASA’s space-based missions should have adequate R&A lines within each mission budget as well as mission-specific operations and data analysis. These R&A lines should be protected within the missions and not used simply as mission reserves to cover cost growth on the hardware side. NASA, NOAA, and USGS should increase their support for Earth system modeling, including provision of high-performance computing facilities and support for scientists working in the areas of modeling and data assimilation. SUSTAINING AN EARTH KNOWLEDGE AND INFORMATION SYSTEM A successful Earth information system should be planned and implemented around long-term strategies that encompass the life cycle from research to operations to applications. The strategy must include nurturing an effective workforce, informing the public, sharing in the development of a robust professional community, ensuring effective and long-term access to data, and much more. An active planning process must be pursued that focuses on effectively implementing the recommendations for the next decade as well as sustaining and building the knowledge and information system beyond the next decade. Recommendation: A formal interagency planning and review process should be put into place that focuses on effectively implementing the recommendations made in the present decadal survey report and sustaining and building an Earth knowledge and information system for the next decade and beyond. The training of future scientists who are needed to interpret observations and who will turn measurements into knowledge and information is exceedingly important. To ensure that effective and productive use of data is maximized, resources must be dedicated to an education and training program that spans a broad range of communities. A robust program that provides training in the use of these observations will result in highly varied societal benefits, including improved weather forecasts, more effective emergency management, better land-use planning, and so on. Recommendation: NASA, NOAA, and USGS should pursue innovative approaches to educate and train scientists and users of Earth observations and applications. A particularly important role is to assist educators in inspiring and training students in the use of Earth observations and the information derived from them.