Space: National Imperatives for the Next Decade and Beyond.3 Indeed, in ESD’s portion of the SMD 2010 Science Plan, the connection between the objectives of the division and the decadal survey’s “vision” is explicit:4

At NASA’s request, the National Research Council conducted the first ever Decadal Survey for Earth Science, and released in 2007 the report Earth Science and Applications from Space: National Imperatives for the Next Decade and Beyond. In it, the NRC articulates the following 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.

NASA’s ability to observe our changing planet from the vantage point of space and use these observations to advance understanding and to support applications that support society is essential to realizing this vision.

The 2007 decadal survey outlined the components of an Earth information system to address recognized national needs for Earth system research and applications to benefit society.5 It also described an observational portion of a strategy for obtaining an integrated set of space-based measurements essential to such a system over the period from 2010 to 2020.6 Although they are but one part of the requisite Earth information system, space-based measurements provide unique and key data for analyzing Earth as a global system of interconnected human activities and natural processes.

With its emphasis on advancement of Earth system science, the SMD science strategy is well aligned with that expressed in the survey. In particular, the SMD 2010 Science Plan states,7

NASA’s strategic goal: “Advance Earth System Science to meet the challenges of climate and environmental change” is expressed by the fundamental question, “How is the Earth changing and what are the consequences for life on Earth?” and its component questions:

•  How is the global Earth system changing? (Characterize)

•  What are the sources of change in the Earth system and their magnitudes and trends? (Understand)

•  How will the Earth system change in the future? (Predict)

•  How can Earth system science improve mitigation of an adaptation to global change? (Apply)

The alignment of NASA’s objectives for its Earth science program and that articulated by the survey is also recognized in the present study’s statement of task, where it is stated that “the National Research Council shall convene an ad hoc committee to review the alignment of NASA’s Earth Science Division’s program with previous NRC advice, primarily the 2007 NRC decadal survey report Earth Science and Applications from Space: National Imperatives for the Next Decade and Beyond” (see Appendix A).

In summary, for purposes of the present study, an evaluation of NASA’s Earth science program is effectively an assessment of progress toward achieving the objectives of the decadal survey.

3National Research Council, Earth Science and Applications from Space: National Imperatives for the Next Decade and Beyond, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2007.

4NASA, 2010 Science Plan for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, NASA Headquarters, Washington, D.C., July 2010, p. 24.

5See Chapter 1, “An Integrated Strategy for Earth Science and Applications from Space,” pp. 17-26 in National Research Council, Earth Science and Applications from Space: National Imperatives for the Next Decade and Beyond, 2007.

6See Chapter 2, “The Next Decade of Earth Observations from Space,” pp. 27-60 in National Research Council, Earth Science and Applications from Space: National Imperatives for the Next Decade and Beyond, 2007.

7NASA, 2010 Science Plan for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, July 2010, pp. 24-25.



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