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Web Date: January 8, 2018

National Academies plan for next decade of atmospheric chemistry observation

Report makes confident recommendations in the face of budget uncertainty
Department: Government & Policy
A NASA engineer examines the SAGE III-ISIS aerosol measuring instrument during testing.
Credit: NASA Langley/Sean Smith
Photo of a masked and gloved technician examining the SAGE III instrument.
A NASA engineer examines the SAGE III-ISIS aerosol measuring instrument during testing.
Credit: NASA Langley/Sean Smith

The U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine released its 10-year strategy for spacecraft-based Earth science last week, recommending several areas of atmospheric chemistry for further study.

Those areas include the properties and distribution of aerosols, fluxes and sources of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane, and profiles of ozone and other trace gases.

The report was commissioned by the National Aeronautics & Space Administration, National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, and U.S. Geological Survey. Dozens of representatives from academia, industry, and government agencies contributed.

The committee recommends continuing two aerosol missions are already in progress or being planned. It also suggests spending up to $350 million on each of the greenhouse and trace gases missions.

Those recommendations and others in the report are predicated on a projected $3.4 billion budget for Earth observation over the next decade. Budgets have varied by more than $1 billion in NASA’s earth science mission in the last 20 years. Those fluctuations are one reason some goals from the 2007–17strategy report haven’t been met.

Committee cochair William B. Gail, chief technology officer of Global Weather Corp., explains that the committee included some guidance for NASA in case of modest cuts but recommended that agencies consult with the National Academies in case of larger cuts.

“We largely tried to ignore the budget,” Gail says. “Our charter is to look longer term and not react to short-term stuff.”

The panel did have to take into account past budget decisions. NASA opted to cancel several earth observing missions in the past 10 years because of funding constraints. The National Academies committee noted the U.S. is already relying heavily on the European Space Agency (ESA) to fill those gaps and recommends NASA open discussions with ESA and other international partners to ensure critical measurements are being made.

Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
Copyright © American Chemical Society

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