Lee-Lueng Fu, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology

Sarah Gibson, National Center for Atmospheric Research

J. Todd Hoeksema, Stanford University

Stephen Mackwell, Lunar and Planetary Institute

Marcia J. Rieke, University of Arizona

Meenakshi Wadhwa, Arizona State University

Belinda Wilkes, Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory

Steven C. Wofsy, Harvard University


David Smith, Senior Program Officer (study director)

Abigail Sheffer, Associate Program Officer

Dionna Williams, Program Coordinator

F. Harrison Dreves, Lloyd V. Berkner Space Policy Intern, Summer 2013


Approval of the membership of ad hoc Committee on a Framework for Analyzing the Needs for Continuity of NASA-Sustained Remote Sensing Observations of the Earth from Space occurred in August 2013. Instruments on NASA research and NOAA “operational” spacecraft measure numerous variables relevant to Earth’s biosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, and oceans and their interactions on various scales. However, there is a growing tension between the need for measurement continuity of data streams that are critical components of Earth science research programs, (including, but not limited to, areas related to climate), and the development of new measurement capabilities. While there is an increasing societal need for information products derived from Earth observations, the federal agencies responsible for providing these measurements face a near-perfect storm of diminished fiscal resources (the result of increasing costs, flat or declining budgets, and other challenges, including recovery from the launch failure of OCO and GLORY and the substantive increase in cost, diminished capabilities, and delay of the JPSS spacecraft). Many Earth-observing satellites are in their extended mission phase nearing the end of their useful lives growth in program costs, and a coming loss of heritage assets. These circumstances prompted a request from NASA’s Earth Science Division (ESD) to the SSB (through the Committee on Earth Sciences and Applications from Space) to assemble an ad hoc committee of the NRC to provide a framework to assist in the determination of when a measurement(s) or dataset(s) initiated by ESD should be collected for extended periods.

The first in-person meeting of the committee occurred on November 12-14, 2013, in Washington, D.C. At the meeting, the committee had extensive discussions with Michael Freilich, Director, NASA ESD. The committee also heard presentations from Tom Karl, Director, NOAA National Climatic Data Center; Tim Newman, Acting Land Remote Sensing Program Coordinator, USGS; and Peter Colohan, Office of Science and Technology Policy. In closed session, the committee reviewed the task statement and developed a preliminary plan to address its elements. Several internal working groups were formed, which reported back to the full committee at its next in-person meeting on January 29-31, 2014, in Washington, D.C.

At the second meeting, committee members received presentations from Adrian Simmons, Chairman of the Global Climate Observing System Steering Committee; Toshiyoshi Kimura, Associate Director for Engineering, Earth Observation Research Center, Satellite Applications Mission Directorate, JAXA; Duane Waliser, Chief Scientist, Earth Science and Technology Directorate, Jet Propulsion Laboratory; and Thomas Piekutowski, Program Manager for Sun-Earth System Sciences, and Stella Melo, Senior Program Scientist, from the Canadian Space Agency. In closed session, the committee continued to refine the report structure and content and process for moving forward with report development.

The committee’s third meeting will be held in Irvine, California on April 23-25, 2014. That meeting will be entirely closed session and devoted to writing the report. If needed—and resources allow for it—the committee may hold a fourth writing meeting later in 2014.

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