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Environment

U.S. satellite studies of Earth’s atmospheric chemistry proposed for next decade

by Sam Lemonick
January 15, 2018 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 96, ISSUE 3

Credit: NASA Langley/Sean Smith
A NASA engineer examines the SAGE III-ISIS aerosol measuring instrument during testing.

For the next 10 years of spacecraft-based studies of Earth, the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering & Medicine recommend several areas of atmospheric chemistry for further study. In particular, the National Academies’ Committee on the Decadal Survey for Earth Science & Applications from Space advocates continuing two missions that are already in the works to study the properties and distribution of atmospheric aerosol particles. It also suggests spending up to $350 million each on missions that could incorporate instrumentation to study the fluxes and sources of greenhouse gases as well as profiles of ozone and other trace gases. Those recommendations and others in the report are predicated on a projected $3.4 billion budget for Earth observation over the next decade. The committee noted that NASA opted to cancel several Earth-observing missions in the past 10 years because of funding constraints. Consequently, the U.S. is already relying heavily on the European Space Agency (ESA) to fill those gaps. The National Academies’ committee recommends NASA open discussions with ESA and other international partners to ensure critical measurements are being made. The strategy report was commissioned by NASA, the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, and the U.S. Geological Survey.

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