tools designed by the ECS will not be ready in time for the AM-1 launch, the DAACs most affected will have to incorporate subsetting into their contingency plans.
With technical problems in the EOSDIS Core System and, more recently, flight operations commanding the attention of NASA and Congress, it is easy to lose sight of what the EOS program is all about—understanding the Earth and the processes that govern it. Because such a wide variety of data will be collected—atmospheric, oceanic, polar, biospheric, and solid earth—scientists will be able to use EOSDIS to support both disciplinary and multidisciplinary research. Although multidisciplinary scientists are only one component of the EOSDIS user community, meeting their needs will be the greatest challenge of the system. For these users, EOSDIS must be more than a collection of discipline data centers; it must be a real system that enables users to access and combine data from more than one DAAC or data center.
The current collection of DAACs does not as yet function as a system. To become a system in reality, the DAACs and ESDIS will need a common vision of the goals of the system and a commitment to developing practical approaches toward achieving these goals. Developing such a system becomes an even greater challenge as EOSDIS evolves to a more distributed federation. NASA leadership is crucial for this transformation to succeed. In the near term, NASA's attention is necessarily focused on fulfilling existing software commitments and on supporting science and instrument teams for existing or near-term flight missions. However, in the longer term, EOSDIS must establish by force of example its role as the creative nerve center for the scientific understanding of the Earth in the next decade. Though in many respects still a dream, this goal is too important to let slip away.