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Annual Report 2008 6 Congressional Testimony Members of Space Studies Board (SSB) committees may be invited to testify before committees of the U.S. House of Representatives or the U.S. Senate about the findings and recommendations of their reports. During 2007, one hearing was held where members of the SSB family testified to Congress. Their prepared statements are reprinted here (without references, notes, appendices, tables, or figures). At the March 13, 2008, hearing before the House Committee on Science and Technology’s Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics, Lennard A. Fisk, SSB chair, and Berrien Moore III, SSB member and chair of the Committee on Earth Studies, testified on their perspectives on the state of space science activities at NASA and the fiscal year (FY) 2009 budget. S. Alan Stern, associate administrator for science, NASA, Steven W. Squyres, professor of astronomy, Cornell University, and Jack O. Burns, professor, Center for Astrophysics and Space Astronomy, University of Colorado, also testified. Their prepared statements are available at http://science.house.gov/publications/hearings_markups_details.aspx?NewsID=2119.
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Annual Report 2008 6.1 NASA’S Space Science Programs: Review of Fiscal 2009 Budget Request and Issues STATEMENTS BEFORE THE HOUSE COMMITTEE ON SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY SUBCOMMITTEE ON SPACE AND AERONAUTICS March 13, 2008 Statement of Lennard A. Fisk NRC Space Studies Board National Research Council, The National Academies Mr. Chairman, members of the subcommittee, thank you for inviting me here to testify today. My name is Lennard Fisk, and I am the Thomas M. Donahue Distinguished University Professor of Space Science at the University of Michigan. I also served from 1987 to 1993 as the NASA Associate Administrator for Space Science and Applications. I am currently the Chair of the National Research Council’s Space Studies Board, although the views I offer today are my own. In your invitation letter asking me to testify before you today you asked a series of questions that I would like to address now in sequence. The State of the Space Science Program You asked me to comment on whether the space science program is moving in the right direction. I would like to expand this question to read is space science moving in the right direction and are the resources adequate to achieve success. The budget for the Science Mission Directorate (SMD), and its projected runout, has many, very positive features. There are new starts for seven different missions. Each of the major disciplines—planetary, astrophysics, heliophysics and Earth science—has at least one major new start. Earth science in particular is able to begin making progress in pursuit of the science objectives of its recent NRC decadal survey. There are also increases in the Research & Analysis program, which is vital to the health and the future of space science. The space science community is buoyed by the opportunity to pursue important new science missions and relieved that the unwise decisions of the past have been reversed. All of these positive features of the SMD program have been accomplished within a fixed budget envelope, which is currently, and for the next few years, growing at only 1% per year. This is a problem. Some of the new starts in the budget come at the expense of other programs that are displaced or deferred. The growth in Earth science is heartening given the importance that society places on deploying NASA’s technical prowess to understand global climate change. The growth in Earth science, however, came by taking funds from other science disciplines, all to remain within the fixed budget envelope. Moreover, there is no flexibility in the SMD budget, no robustness. A single major setback in the cost of some mission under development would seriously stress the carefully woven plan of maintaining the vitality of all the different science disciplines. It needs to be recognized also that NASA’s response to the NRC Earth science decadal survey is inadequate if we are serious about understanding global climate change. That decadal survey report pointed out that the Earth science budget has decreased by about $500 million per year since 2000. Restoration of at least this amount of annual funding is required in order that the nation can have a satellite system that adequately provides the sound scientific underpinning for planning for the inevitable climate change that lies before us. However, in the runout of the SMD budget to FY2012 only a total of about $600 million, not $500 million per year, is provided. To be sure, the increased funds for Earth science are all that are available in an overall flat budget. The new funds come from the other science disciplines, and to take more would devastate those constrained, but otherwise healthy programs. In many ways SMD is a graphic illustration of the dilemmas that face all of NASA—too few resources to accomplish the many tasks that the nation has placed on the agency. Whether it is human space exploration, the use of the Space Station, aeronautics, or science, the funding is not adequate. SMD is doing well with what it has, trying to maintain the vitality of the space and Earth science communities, and to move the program forward with
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Annual Report 2008 new mission opportunities. However, there is so much more that needs to be done, whether it is a solid start on the Earth science decadal survey recommendations, a vigorous Mars program, a full Living-with-a-Star program, or a vigorous program to understand the astrophysical challenges of dark energy and dark matter. And the budget needs to be robust so that it is actually executable. The funding constraints on all of NASA and on SMD in particular need to be lifted, and the required resources need to be provided so that the nation can have the space program that the nation needs and deserves. The State of Heliophysics You asked me to comment in particular on whether the Heliophysics program is moving in the right direction. Heliophysics is the study of the Sun, the heliosphere (i.e. the region of space created by the solar wind, the outward expansion of the solar atmosphere), the plasma environment of the planets, and the coupling and interactions among these various environments. Research in Heliophysics is essential for understanding the coupling between the Sun and Earth, and for predicting the space environment through which our space assets and eventually our astronauts will fly. There is good news in this program. As in other disciplines in space science, there is an increase in the Research & Analysis program budget and a new start for the Solar Probe mission. This good news is tempered, as in other disciplines, by the reality that the increase in budget for these elements of the program came at the expense of other planned initiatives, which cannot now be pursued. The budget envelope for Heliophysics is fixed, and in fact has been used, in part, to provide Earth Science with needed funds to make a start on its decadal survey missions. In the case of Solar Probe, then, the required funds have come from the Living-with-a-Star program, which is now unable to pursue, in the near term, either the Sentinel program or missions to the ionosphere. The new start for Solar Probe should be viewed, then, as a realignment of the scientific priorities. NASA has judged that it is more important to make direct measurements in the region of the solar atmosphere closest to the Sun, than are other priorities such as the study of the ionosphere. This logic is understandable. The inner region of the solar atmosphere is the source of the solar wind and solar energetic particles. It is a region where current instrumentation cannot observe the governing magnetic field and where direct in-situ observations are required to resolve the many mysteries that inhibit our ability to predict the space environment created by the Sun. The Solar Probe mission was endorsed by the 2003 NRC decadal survey for this field. It was considered to be an important, large mission for which funds beyond the planned budget envelope needed to be provided. This has not proven to be feasible, and the required funds have been taken from other planned missions. The science priority, however, of Solar Probe is not in question. The planned Solar Probe mission is very clever, and solves a number of the concerns associated with previous concepts for Solar Probe. Solar Probe needs to make multiple passes through the solar atmosphere, which is a dynamic, ever changing environment. Only by multiple passes can we avoid confusion that arises from the fact that this is such a dynamic place. The required multiple passes are achievable because the planned Solar Probe mission does not penetrate as close to the Sun as some previous versions of Solar Probes were planned to do. However, the current Solar Probe concept is judged by the scientists who have studied the mission in detail to have a penetration distance that is adequately close to be able to resolve the fundamental processes resulting in the heating of the solar atmosphere and acceleration of energetic particles. The other important feature of the planned Solar Probe mission is that it is to be undertaken in concert with the European Space Agency Solar Orbiter mission, for which NASA has agreed to provide part of the payload. Solar Orbiter is to be placed in an orbit around 30 solar radii from the Sun, and to achieve an orbit that is inclined to the solar equator. From this vantage point, a capable set of remote sensing instrumentation will make detailed observations of the solar surface and atmosphere, and a capable set of in-situ instruments will observe the solar outputs of plasma and energetic particles in detail. It should be possible to have Solar Orbiter in place while Solar Probe is doing its penetrations deep into the solar atmosphere, and the combination will be an historic opportunity to once and for all develop a comprehensive, predictive understanding of the basic processes that control the solar atmosphere and its influence on the heliosphere, and on the Earth and other planets. There is, however, an obligation with this combined program that must be met. The instrumentation on both Solar Probe and Solar Orbiter must be comprehensive and complete. The investment in these missions will be large, and the scientific payloads need to be capable of realizing the scientific breakthroughs that this historic opportunity will allow.
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Annual Report 2008 The Status and Health of the Science and Engineering Workforce You asked for my perspectives on the status and health of the science and engineering workforce as it relates to NASA’s space and Earth science plans. I would respond to this question from several different perspectives. Let me comment first on the NASA workforce. The age distribution of the civil service workforce at the NASA centers is disturbing. It is strongly peaked at age 45-49, with only a small fraction of the workforce under 30, and almost an equal number over 60. There needs, in my judgment, to be a rejuvenation of the NASA workforce. Experience is important, but more current training, particularly in the engineering disciplines, and the enthusiasm, energy, and willingness to explore new concepts that inherently come with youth, are important as well. It will not be easy to rejuvenate the NASA workforce. Fixed budgets, the current age distribution, and the requirement mainly imposed by Congress for 10 healthy NASA centers places severe restrictions on NASA’s ability to hire new scientists and engineers. There is an unfortunate corollary to NASA’s inability to rejuvenate its workforce. We want our best young scientists and engineers to aspire to participate in the nation’s space program, yet it is widely known that the prospects for jobs at NASA, and thus a major leadership role in the exploration of space, are meager at best. Next I would comment on the science and engineering workforce outside of NASA. The number of students available to participate in the space program is probably adequate for the simple reason that space requires only a small fraction of the nation’s science and engineering workforce. The issue here is the quality of the students, their particular training, and their attitude when they enter the workforce. There are many capable science and engineering students in this country. The question is why should the best and the brightest aspire to participate in the space program when there are so many other exciting technical challenges that lie before them. The students see a space program that is not a national priority sufficient to receive the funding and support that is necessary for its success. Under these circumstances, only those students who have always aspired to pursue a career in space are likely to enter the field, as opposed to those who have the talents and the capabilities to pursue many different technical disciplines. Thus workforce and priorities for space are linked. If space becomes a national priority, the nation’s highly capable technical workforce will respond. There is also a question of training. It is essential that engineers in particular receive hands-on training with real space projects or space-related hardware. The vast majority of the senior technical workforce currently executing the space and Earth science program had hands-on opportunities earlier in their careers, and they all would say that it was essential for their current success. We should expect no difference for the next generation. It is incumbent upon NASA to provide the universities with the opportunities to offer their students hands-on experience if we are to continue our technical success. The previous two items are strongly coupled. The experience in most universities is that when students have hands-on research experiences in space engineering as undergraduates they invariably decide to pursue careers in space. If NASA provides universities with the opportunities to offer hands-on experience, not only does the required training occur, but the best and the brightest are recruited into space. Finally, there is the issue of attitude, particularly among young scientists entering the fields of space and Earth science. Space science is 50 years old this year; Explorer 1, the first space science mission, was launched in 1958. In a science discipline at this age, which is dominated now by scientists who have practiced their disciplines for decades, inevitably there are well established points of view that have been developed, which are resistant to new ideas. It is important that the new scientists entering the field challenge these established points of view, for that is how progress is made in science. And it is incumbent upon NASA, through its Research & Analysis program, to encourage new approaches and new thoughts, so that progress is made and the true answers to the many mysteries of the universe are revealed. Consequently, I strongly support the proposed increase in funding for the Research and Analysis program. The State of NASA’s Space Weather Program You asked what is the status of NASA’s program to collect data and conduct research on space weather. There are two aspects of this issue that I would like to address: first, the monitoring of space weather that affects Earth, and second, our ability to learn how to predict space weather. It is important to have a spacecraft at the Sun-Earth L1 point in front of Earth that can provide real-time warning of space weather events that will impact Earth, and also provide information on solar wind conditions for basic
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Annual Report 2008 research on the response of the Earth’s magnetosphere, ionosphere, and atmosphere to space weather events. At present this information is provided by the Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE), which was launched in 1997. It is unwise to rely entirely on ACE and its instrumentation, some of which is showing signs of age. It is possible to put up a relatively inexpensive spacecraft to perform the basic monitoring function. I would add that such a spacecraft may be more appropriately a NOAA rather than a NASA responsibility, since NOAA is to provide operational space weather predictions. The second issue is our ability to develop a true predictive capability for space weather. It is not sufficient simply to monitor the immediate arrival of a space weather event, or to base predictions on general correlations between events on the Sun and the arrival of space weather disturbances at Earth. Rather, we need to have an adequate understanding of the basic physical processes that govern the acceleration of the solar wind, the release of Coronal Mass Ejections, and the acceleration of energetic particles. With this understanding, we will eventually be able to make detailed observations of the Sun, put that information into comprehensive numerical models, and make real-time predictions of the space weather that will impact the space environment of the entire solar system, and of the Earth in particular. The pursuit of a detailed understanding of the basic physical processes that govern the solar atmosphere and its extension into space, the response of the space environment of Earth, and the development of comprehensive numerical models is the main purpose of the Heliophysics Division in SMD. It is important that these efforts be encouraged so that a true predictive capability is developed as soon as possible. Missions such as Radiation Belt Storm Probes, which are currently under development, are important for understanding the response of the Earth’s magnetosphere to space weather events. Missions such as the upcoming Solar Dynamics Observatory and the proposed Solar Probe and Solar Orbiter, which I discussed earlier, are essential for developing an understanding of the basic mechanisms that heat the solar atmosphere and accelerate energetic particles. It is also important to make maximum use of the space assets currently in place to study the Sun and the plasma environments that the Sun creates throughout the solar system. There is a flotilla of spacecraft in place known as the Heliophysics Great Observatory. These missions, from the recently launched STEREO missions that observe the Sun and its outputs in 3-dimensions to the venerable Voyager missions probing the distant heliosphere, all are essential to our understanding of the physics that governs the plasma processes in our solar system. It is important to use these missions in a coordinated way, to derive the maximum possible information from them, and in doing so to create the scientific foundation for the predictive models of space weather that we require. Issues to Address in the Reauthorization of NASA You asked for input on the important issues that should be addressed with respect to NASA’s space science program as Congress considers its reauthorization of NASA. I would like to take the liberty of answering this question in the broader context of NASA as a whole since I do not believe that the NASA space science program can be considered separately from NASA’s overall activities and goals. We are now four years into implementing the Vision for Space Exploration that was announced by President Bush in January 2004, and it is worth a critical analysis of where we are. So far, with the exception of the initial FY 2005 budget, the Administration has not requested the funds it said were required to execute the Vision. There were underestimates of the costs required to continue to fly the Shuttle and complete the International Space Station. Consequently, NASA has been forced to cannibalize much of the rest of its program to even begin to make progress on the Vision. And it is hard to say that the Vision of returning to the Moon has generated much excitement, or even understanding among the public, particularly among the young who are expected to benefit most from the future that the Vision promises. We should ask ourselves whether there was a flaw in the Vision for Space Exploration, which we did not recognize at the time. The Vision is all about the future—extending our civilization into space, with the long-term benefits that we expect to accrue for our country. There is, however, little in the Vision that is of immediate concern. So when near-term needs intervene, such as providing funds for the war in Iraq or for Hurricane Katrina, it is NASA that comes up short in funding. I would encourage you, then, as you consider the reauthorization of NASA, as I would encourage the next Administration, to provide NASA with a role that is not only about the future, but is important in the present. There are several ideas worth discussing:
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Annual Report 2008 NASA could use, and serve, a more important geopolitical role. The obvious one is to lead the world in the exploration of space, in a cooperative and facilitating way. NASA then becomes an instrument of our foreign policy through its ability to improve the image and impact of the United States around the world. If that is important to the next Administration then perhaps the resources necessary for NASA to play its proper role in leading the world will be provided. NASA could use, and serve, a more important role in improving the competitive position of the United States, through the encouragement of technology development, entrepreneurialism, and technical education. This would be a new emphasis for NASA that would encompass more than just human space flight, which is an engineering challenge but which does not often emphasize new technologies. It is the science disciplines of NASA, with their needs for new sensors and electronics and robotic capability that are a better stimulus for technology. And finally there are the programs in NASA that are of demonstrable immediate importance to the taxpayers—Earth science to provide the scientific basis for understanding global climate change, and aeronautics. In the current implementation of the Vision these programs have been allowed to decline and atrophy, and they deserve strong re-emphasis. Berrien Moore III, Ph.D. Executive Director, Climate Central, Inc. Co-Chair, Committee on Earth Studies, NRC Space Studies Board Mr. Chairman, Ranking Minority Member, and members of the Committee: thank you for inviting me here to testify today. My name is Berrien Moore III. For the past 20 years, I was Director of the Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space at the University of New Hampshire. Recently, I have assumed the position of Executive Director for a new nonprofit organization, Climate Central, to be located in Princeton NJ and Palo Alto, CA. I appear, today, largely in my capacity as the recent co-chair of the National Research Council (NRC)’s Committee on Earth Science and Applications from Space, which authored the first “decadal survey” for the Earth Sciences and as the current chair of the National Research Council (NRC)’s Committee on Earth Studies of the Space Studies Board. This said, the views expressed in today’s testimony are my own, but I believe they reflect community concerns. Mr. Chairman, the world faces significant and profound 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 above all the rapid pace 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. Information from NASA and NOAA environmental satellites is critical in addressing these problems, but as a result of significant cuts over several past budget cycles, growth in the cost of accessing space and in development of instruments, and inflation, we find ourselves with a growing mismatch between needs and resources. The fiscal year 2009 budget for NASA begins to redress some of this imbalance, but much more will be needed for many budget cycles to come. I will now turn to the specific questions included in the letter of 28 February 2008 that I received from the Committee: Do you believe NASA’s space science program, and especially the Earth science program, is moving in the right direction? What, if any, changes would improve the program, and why? Please elaborate on your perspectives. Last June, this subcommittee held a hearing, “NASA’s Earth Science and Applications Programs: Fiscal Year 2008 Budget Request and Issues.” In opening statements, the chair of the subcommittee (Udall) and its now ranking minority member (Feeney) stated that: “I called today’s hearing for the purpose of examining how well NASA’s plans and programs compare to the priorities of the decadal survey, and the extent to which NASA intends to support those priorities in the FY 08 budget and beyond. As numerous witnesses before this Committee have testified, the situation facing NASA’s Earth Science program is not good … to quote the Decadal Survey, the nation’s system of environmental satellites is ‘at risk of collapse’” —Rep. Mark Udall (D-CO)
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Annual Report 2008 “NASA’s Earth Sciences program has produced stunning scientific results, often demonstrating, for the first time, measurements and capabilities that have never before been accomplished. I want that record of achievement to continue, and it’s also my desire that we build upon the program’s success to enable the goals established in the Decadal Survey.” —Rep. Tom Feeney (R-FL) The subcommittee hearing focused on NASA Earth science programs in general and the recommendations of the recently completed National Research Council decadal survey, “Earth Science and Applications from Space: National Imperatives for the Next Decade and Beyond” in particular. The decadal survey outlined near-term actions meant to stem the tide of capability deterioration and continue critical data records, as well as forward-looking recommendations to establish a balanced Earth observation program designed to directly address the most urgent societal challenges facing our nation and the world. Testifying on behalf of the Decadal Survey steering committee, in which I served as co-chair, Dr. Richard Anthes, President of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, outlined the key elements of the recommended program: Restoration of certain measurement capabilities to the NPP, NPOESS, and GOESR spacecraft in order to ensure continuity of critical data sets. Completion of the existing planned program that was used as a baseline assumption for this survey. This includes (but is not limited to) launch of GPM in or before 2012 and securing a replacement to Landsat 7 data before 2012. A prioritized set of 17 missions to be carried out by NOAA and NASA over the next decade. This set of missions provides a sound foundation for Earth science and its associated societal benefits well beyond 2020. A technology development program at NASA with funding comparable to and in addition to its basic technology program to make sure the necessary technologies are ready when needed to support mission starts over the coming decade. A new “Venture” class of low-cost research and application missions that can establish entirely new research avenues or demonstrate key application-oriented measurements, helping with the development of innovative ideas and technologies. Priority would be given to cost-effective, innovative missions rather than ones with excessive scientific and technological requirements. A robust NASA Research and Analysis program, which is necessary to maximize scientific return on NASA investments in Earth science. Because the R&A programs are carried out largely through the Nation’s research universities, such programs are also of great importance in supporting and training the next generation of Earth science researchers. Suborbital and land-based measurements and socio-demographic studies in order to supplement and complement satellite data. A comprehensive information system to meet the challenge of production, distribution, and stewardship of observational data and climate records. To ensure the recommended observations will benefit society, the mission program must be accompanied by efforts to translate raw observational data into useful information through modeling, data assimilation, and research and analysis. In order to lay the foundation for implementing the full set of recommendations during the next decade, we further recommended these very near-term actions: First, NASA should commit to and begin to implement its recommended Decadal Missions. Although, the NASA budget for Earth Sciences is not now adequate to implement the survey recommendations (see next question), a useful start can be made with modest resources. The survey’s initial seven missions (2010-2013) should begin in 2008; the first four (CLARREO, SMAP, ICESat-II, and DESDynI) should begin intensive Phase A activities and the next three (for the time period 2013-2016—HyspIRI, ASCENDS, and SWOT) should begin pre-Phase A studies. Increment needed beyond President’s Request in FY08: $90 million. Second, NASA should increase its suborbital capabilities. NASA’s airborne programs have suffered substantial diminution and should be restored. In addition, NASA should lead in exploiting unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV/technology). Both conventional and UAV aircraft are needed for instrument development, and hence risk reduction
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Annual Report 2008 and technology advancement, and for their direct contribution to Earth observations. Increment needed beyond President’s Request in FY08: $10 million. Third, NASA should increase support of its Research and Analysis (R&A) program and in Earth System modeling. Improved information about potential future changes in climate, weather, and other environmental conditions is essential for the benefit and protection of society. This improvement will come from: a) better observations (the recommended missions and enhanced suborbital capabilities); b) more capable models of the Earth System; and c) a vigorous research program to use the observations in models and interpret the results. The R&A program has suffered significant cuts in recent years and these should be reversed. R&A investments are among the most cost-effective as they directly exploit on-going missions, advance knowledge to better define what is needed in the future, and sustain and develop the requisite scientific and engineering workforce. Increment needed beyond President’s Request in FY08: $20 million. The President’s fiscal year 2009 budget for NASA includes a major new initiative in Earth science and applications, including a plan to provide $910 million over five years (FY2009-2013) that addresses to varying degrees the items above and begins implementation of the decadal survey’s nearest-term recommendations. In addition, the budget provides funding to restore the OMPS-L sensor to the NPOESS Preparatory Project (NPP) spacecraft, which is now scheduled for launch in 2010, integrate a spare CERES instrument on NPP, and support instrument development and analyses to identify a suitable satellite platform for hosting the total solar irradiance sensor (TSIS). All of this is very welcome news, but I have several concerns: The Initiative’s funding comes at the expense of other NASA science programs: Approximately two-thirds of the additional $910 million over five years are obtained by drawing from each of the three other science areas in the science mission directorate (SMD). In the planetary portfolio, some $200 million came from the Mars program as a result of delay in a Scout mission procurement. The contribution from the Heliophysics division included changes such as a stretching out in the development of the Solar Probe mission. The Astrophysics division contributions were largely obtained by reducing funding in the out-years of the five-year plan, (2011-2013). Earth science requires an ongoing commitment of funding at a higher level than is provided in the FY09 budget run-out and redistribution of resources simply is not a long-term solution to the problem. As noted by members of this committee, NASA has been asked to accomplish too much with too little; what is needed is an increase in the overall top-line budget for NASA, which in turn will allow an increase in NASA’s science budget. Absent such an increase, it will not be possible to restore Earth science funding to the needed FY2000 levels (as recommended in the decadal survey) without inflicting great damage to the other science portfolio areas. As illustrated below, the Initiative still falls very short of what is required to implement the Decadal Survey. Below is an updated version of a graphic that we prepared for the Decadal Survey; it now includes budget profiles from the FY08 and FY09 Presidential budgets (FY08 and FY09). As before, we present the data in FY06 dollars to remove the effects of inflation. It is evident that after an initial rise, funding for Earth science at NASA actually begins to decrease again. The climate record from NPOESS is still very much in danger. As this committee knows too well, cost and schedule problems triggered a Nunn-McCurdy review of the NPOESS program. Many of the specific capabilities related to better understand, predict, and eventually mitigate the effects of global climate change were lost in the restructured program. The changes to NPP and the decision to find a platform for a new TSIS are welcome news, but, as detailed in a forthcoming NRC report, far from what is needed. Finally, NOAA must have adequate resources to support the development and stewardship of Climate Data Records. This was addressed in both the Interim and Final reports of the decadal survey, and I call it again to the attention of the Committee. In summary, I am encouraged by the renewed emphasis on Earth science at NASA; however, without additional resources, there is a limit to what management’s best intentions can accomplish. The NASA Earth science program is doing what it can with the resources it has been given; it simply has not been given enough to accomplish all that is expected of it, and, more importantly, all that the Nation needs. I address explicitly what further needs to be done in my answer to Question Two below.
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Annual Report 2008 What, if any, challenges do you foresee for the future of the NASA Earth science program as presented in the FY 2009 budget request? What are your suggestions for addressing those challenges? As I noted in my response to question #1, the FY09 NASA Earth science program request is very good news, but I am concerned about whether the initiative can be sustained and whether it is advisable to fund Earth science at the expense of other NASA science programs. The planned addition of $910 million over five years to the Earth science budget also still leaves a very large shortfall in what is needed to execute the recommendations of the decadal survey (see again the figure above). The 17 missions recommended by the decadal survey are organized into sets in order to take most advantage of concurrent observations to advance our understanding of Earth as a system—four missions are recommended for launch in the 2010-2013 timeframe. In contrast, the FY09 budget plans for one to launch in 2012 and a second in 2015. A third is slated for 2017. This makes the concurrent observations between missions very difficult. The overall program recommended by the decadal survey is simply not being adequately implemented. I would like to suggest two challenging and important actions: First, both the Science Mission Directorate and the Earth Sciences Division need a budget plus above the President’s request. Congress did this last year, and the result was particularly positive since it served to not only achieve the direct benefits one might expect, but it also encouraged industry to begin to invest anew in technologies relevant to the missions recommended by the decadal survey. For the Earth sciences, the target for this Congressional increase should be a) more rapid implementation of the first four missions and b) a greater technology investment in the missions in the 2013-2016 timeframe—particularly the first two or three missions in the 2013-2016 timeframe. Second, Congress should address the inadequacies in the out-year budget; this could be particularly important as the executive branch of government goes through a transition. As NASA begins to plan missions recommended in the National Academies Earth science Decadal Survey, what actions do the Decadal Survey and other community input recommend to further the applied use of the data for societal benefits and the transition of research data into operational service? What, if any impediments exist that could constrain progress in this area, and how can they be overcome? In the decadal survey report, the steering committee expressed a particular concern with 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 assured through the transition of short-term, exploratory capabilities, into sustained observing systems. The elimination of the requirements for climate research-related measurements on NPOESS is only the most recent example of the nation’s failure to sustain critical measurements. Therefore, our committee recommended that, “The Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), in collaboration with the relevant agencies, and in consultation with the scientific community, develop and implement a plan for achieving and sustaining global Earth observations.” In addition, we recommended that the plan recognize the complexity of differing agency roles, responsibilities, and capabilities as well as the lessons from implementation of the Landsat, EOS, and NPOESS programs. I am pleased to note that this recommendation is being taken very seriously by the OSTP. It is my understanding that they are developing an overall strategy for Earth observations policy, which will include interagency issues of the kind raised in the decadal survey as well as issues related to the U.S. contribution to a global observing system and GEO. The issue of an overall national strategy and plan for Earth observation is of central importance, and I return to it below in my answer to the Committee’s final question. Another area that requires attention is the NASA applied sciences program. Last year, the NRC completed a review of this program; at the end of my testimony, I attach a copy the recommendations from that report. These recommendations are entirely consistent with those in the decadal survey; we also noted that the key to meeting societal needs for Earth observation data is to have the potential “users” of these data represented in a substantive way from the earliest stages of mission development, determining priorities, designing products, and evaluating benefits. As noted in my response to question #1, renewed support for the NASA Research and Analysis program is also critical to the success of the applied sciences program.
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Annual Report 2008 The Committee on Science and Technology plans to reauthorize NASA this year and in so doing will communicate policy direction to NASA as well as to the next Presidential Administration. What, in your view, are the most important issues with respect to NASA’s Earth science programs that Congress should consider in its reauthorization of NASA? NASA should consider how to best leverage its Earth science program resources to accomplish both the intended science and societal outcomes as described in the decadal survey. An integrated programmatic approach is required to align efforts towards these common goals. This means coordination of, for example, NASA’s technology development investments to ensure needed technologies are ready to support recommended missions. It also will require additional support to applications end users’ involvement in mission formulation, and targeted R&A investments to begin work on laying the scientific foundation needed to maximize the value of mission observations. In other words, we need to eliminate the traditional “stove pipe” approach, which often decouples funding priorities between program elements; sustained programmatic attention is required to implement the needed missions in a reasonable timeframe. Yet, as we stressed in the decadal survey, the program must also provide opportunities for entirely new measurements and approaches and so programmatic flexibility must be retained to both accommodate and enable new discoveries. A key to making more efficient use of scare budget resources is to develop a comprehensive approach to Earth observations from space. As stated above in my response to question 3, the decadal survey committee expressed great concern 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. Further, these are issues whose solutions will require action at high levels of the federal government. It was for these reasons that we recommended development and implementation of a comprehensive plan for achieving and sustaining global Earth observations. Returning to my opening comments, we know that the planet’s environment is changing on all spatial scales including global, and change is rapid, perhaps more rapid than at any time in human history. Further, we know that many of these changes are occurring as a result of human activities. These human-induced changes are over and above the stresses imposed by the natural variability of a dynamic planet and are intersecting with the effects of past and existing patterns of conflict, poverty, disease, and malnutrition. As I noted, the changes cascade through the Earth’s environment in ways that are difficult to understand and often impossible to predict. Therefore, at the least, these human-driven changes in the global environment will require that societies develop a multitude of creative responses, including strategies for mitigation and adaptation. Earth observations are a critical part of developing these responses. The linked challenges of confronting and coping with global environmental changes, and addressing and securing a sustainable future, are daunting and immediate, but they are not insurmountable. These challenges can be met, but only with a new and even more vigorous approach to observe and understanding our changing planet and with a concomitant commitment by all to alter our actions.