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Continuity of NASA Earth Observations from Space: A Value Framework (2015)

Chapter: Appendix A: Statement of Task

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Suggested Citation:"Appendix A: Statement of Task." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. Continuity of NASA Earth Observations from Space: A Value Framework. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21789.
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A

Statement of Task

An ad hoc committee will develop a framework to assist NASA’s Earth Science Division (ESD) in their determinations of when a measurement(s) or data set(s) should be collected for durations longer than the typical lifetimes of single satellite missions. Although focused on the particular needs of NASA’s Earth Science Division, the committee will consider the relevant current and planned Earth observation programs of NOAA and the USGS. In addition, the committee will review existing NASA policy regarding the scope of its Earth Science Program; the 2007 NRC decadal survey, Earth Science and Applications from Space: National Imperatives for the Next Decade and Beyond; and the 2010 NASA report, Responding to the Challenge of Climate and Environment Change: NASA’s Plan for a Climate-Centric Architecture for Earth Observations and Applications from Space.

The committee will seek to provide guidance to NASA that will be broadly applicable under a variety of scenarios that might unfold over decadal timeframes. In particular, and considering the expected constrained budgets for the NASA earth science program, the committee will:

  1. Provide working definitions of, and describe the roles for “continuity” for the measurements and data sets ESD initiates and uses to accomplish Earth system science objectives;
  2. Establish methodologies and/or metrics that can be used by NASA to inform strategic programmatic decisions regarding the scope and design of its observation and processing systems:
    1. In the context of limited resources and recognizing the programmatic and fiscal tension between the scientific benefits of providing sustained measurements on the one hand, and developing and demonstrating new or improved measurements on the other hand, determine whether a measurement(s) should be collected for extended periods, and provide guidance concerning methods to determine the appropriate balance between cost, risk, and performance when addressing continuity needs for specific measurements; and
    2. Prioritize the relative importance of measurements that are to be collected for extended periods;
    3. Identify the characteristics of, and extent to which, data gaps and/or accuracy/sampling/stability degradations are acceptable for existing and planned data sets;
  3. In addition, where appropriate in addressing the Statement of Task, the committee may:
    1. Examine other means for achieving effective continuity such as alternative, non-space-based instrument platforms;
Suggested Citation:"Appendix A: Statement of Task." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. Continuity of NASA Earth Observations from Space: A Value Framework. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21789.
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  1. Examine the potential enhancements or degradations in the scientific utility of information products that might result from combining multiple measurement sources (versus single-mission or single-instrument information products); and,
  2. Provide illustrations of how the proposed framework might be applied to evaluate either the present NASA-ESD Climate-Centric Architecture, or used in the creation of recommendations for the upcoming decadal survey in Earth science and applications from space.
Suggested Citation:"Appendix A: Statement of Task." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. Continuity of NASA Earth Observations from Space: A Value Framework. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21789.
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Page 63
Suggested Citation:"Appendix A: Statement of Task." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. Continuity of NASA Earth Observations from Space: A Value Framework. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21789.
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Page 64
Next: Appendix B: Quality Metric Examples Using Current Climate Data Records »
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NASA's Earth Science Division (ESD) conducts a wide range of satellite and suborbital missions to observe Earth's land surface and interior, biosphere, atmosphere, cryosphere, and oceans as part of a program to improve understanding of Earth as an integrated system. Earth observations provide the foundation for critical scientific advances and environmental data products derived from these observations are used in resource management and for an extraordinary range of societal applications including weather forecasts, climate projections, sea level change, water management, disease early warning, agricultural production, and the response to natural disasters.

As the complexity of societal infrastructure and its vulnerability to environmental disruption increases, the demands for deeper scientific insights and more actionable information continue to rise. To serve these demands, NASA's ESD is challenged with optimizing the partitioning of its finite resources among measurements intended for exploring new science frontiers, carefully characterizing long-term changes in the Earth system, and supporting ongoing societal applications. This challenge is most acute in the decisions the Division makes between supporting measurement continuity of data streams that are critical components of Earth science research programs and the development of new measurement capabilities.

This report seeks to establish a more quantitative understanding of the need for measurement continuity and the consequences of measurement gaps. Continuity of NASA's Earth's Observations presents a framework to assist NASA's ESD in their determinations of when a measurement or dataset should be collected for durations longer than the typical lifetimes of single satellite missions.

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