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Oceanography in the Next Decade: Building New Partnerships
1980s is about to pay off in a surge of data from missions using satellites that will fly in the 1990s. Considerable expertise and experience now exist both within the NASA centers and in the nonfederal laboratories and universities—almost all of which can be attributed to the far-sighted NASA policies of a decade ago. The only parameter strongly recommended by the ocean community for measurement in the 1990s that is not included in present plans is Earth's gravity field; this oversight needs to be rectified by joint discussions between NASA and the European Space Agency.
As we look beyond the 1990s and well into the twenty-first century, a favorable outlook is not so clear for ocean satellite measurements. In the past several years, NASA has focused primarily on EOS, a series of satellites aimed at contributing to global change research. EOS's task is to provide a wide variety of data in the late 1990s, but limited budgets are reducing the number of instruments and delaying the launch of others. Certain segments of the ocean community have been involved in EOS planning, but the connection is not as broad as it should be. Moreover, the oceans branch at NASA headquarters has been subsumed into EOS planning, thus eliminating the focal point for ocean interests within NASA.
With this lack of focus, it is more difficult for ocean science to be heard regarding ocean priorities in space measurements. As a result of recent EOS downsizing, ocean instruments have lower priority, and the missions needed for broad coverage of ocean parameters in the twenty-first century are not well defined. If long-term planning does not begin soon, the required missions will not be available to provide continuity with missions flying in the 1990s.
Another problem is alluded to in the discussion of NOAA. For climate purposes, long continuous time series of ocean measurements must be sustained. Because of the requirement for open-ended measurements, the measurements resemble operational ones. Traditionally, NASA has asserted that it did not make operational measurements—that the technology would be transferred to NOAA for that purpose; but NOAA has not received adequate funding even for the limited measurements to be made from the polar and geostationary operational environmental satellites. A closer connection is needed between NASA and NOAA in the transition from research to operations. This problem has been identified by several national advisory committees; it was brought to the attention of the responsible interagency committee, the National Space Council, and is being debated there. Because glo-