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Space Weather: A Space Weather Plan for the Nation Space Weather: A Research Perspective A Space Weather Plan for the Nation Space weather is a part of our environment in the same sense as traditional weather. It is not limited to satellite problems or power system failures or astronaut radiation hazards any more than lower-atmospheric weather is limited to the damage from tornadoes, hurricanes, or floods. Just as weather is defined as the state of the atmosphere, so space weather is the state of Earth-space where our satellites, shuttles, and space stations orbit, and it is what deep-space probes experience en route to the planets. It is the result of the solar-terrestrial connection. It is an integral part of the space age that is also reflected in its consequences in the atmosphere and on the ground. Like traditional weather, it is most noticed when it causes problems. Those who study space weather try to understand how the physical system of Earth-space works. It involves efforts to decipher how our most important star, the Sun, behaves, to understand how the space around our planet connects to interplanetary space, to understand the effects on Earth of the energy that is transferred in this interaction. The results of these studies can be used for practical purposes such as space weather forecasting and satellite or communications troubleshooting, but they also give us an eye-opening perspective on our place in space. Indeed they make us appreciate that we are all space travelers on a satellite of the Sun called Earth, that all planets around all stars have space weather in common, and that space weather has figured prominently in our origins and will certainly figure in our fate. U.S. government agencies such as NSF, NASA, NOAA, and the DOD (especially the Air Force and Navy) support file:///S|/SSB/1swNation.htm (1 of 3) [6/25/2003 4:39:45 PM]
Space Weather: A Space Weather Plan for the Nation the study of space weather as a natural component of their research programs. In doing so, they have recognized that a space-age nation requires a broader view of Earth's environment than perhaps was necessary before. They have also recognized the intrinsic value to humans of understanding our local connections to the cosmos and the implications for understanding regions of space far from the solar system. In the past, both the study and applications of space weather have not generally been coordinated across activities and agencies. A change has occurred within the last two years during which efforts have been initiated to bring together the various programs and to create a broader awareness of space weather. This collective effort has come to be known as the National Space Weather Program. With coordination at the management planning level, it has begun to provide support to investigations that lead coherently to a better understanding of space weather, drawing upon all available resources. A major goal is to establish a broadly based National Space Weather Service to provide information to both the professional and the interested layman about space weather. The status of the National Space Weather Program is currently in flux, with a draft implementation plan created with the help of an advisory board of space scientists. The plan foresees coherent research activity that ultimately is transformed into an expert information system (e.g., for communications and power industries, spaceflight planners at government laboratories, satellite builders and operators, radio amateurs) and an educational resource. Information exchange systems such as the World Wide Web could easily provide access, while specialized applications could be designed for individual use off-line. The National Space Weather Program will provide an example of how science and technology can merge in the new millennium to bring the fruits of the nation's research efforts to everyone. The development of the National Space Weather Program can be followed on the World Wide Web (at URL address http://www.geo.nsf.gov/atm/nswp/nswp.htm). file:///S|/SSB/1swNation.htm (2 of 3) [6/25/2003 4:39:45 PM]