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US Climate Satellite Capabilities In Jeopardy 127

Posted by Soulskill
from the potent-potables dept.
An anonymous reader writes with this excerpt from Wired: "The United States is in danger of losing its ability to monitor key climate variables from satellites, according to a new Government Accountability Office report. The country's Earth-observing satellite program has been underfunded for a decade, and the impact of the lack of funds is finally hitting home. The GAO report found that capabilities originally slated for two new Earth-monitoring programs, NPOESS and GOES-R, run by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Department of Defense, have been cut, and adequate plans to replace them do not exist. Meanwhile, up until six months ago, NASA had 15 functional Earth-sensing satellites. Two of them went down in the past year, and of the remaining 13, 12 are past their design lifetimes. Only seven may be functional by 2016, said Waleed Abdalati, a longtime NASA satellite scientist now teaching at the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Taken together, American scientists will soon find themselves without the ability to monitor changes to key Earth systems at a time when such measurements could help determine the paths of the world's energy and transportation systems."
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US Climate Satellite Capabilities In Jeopardy

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  • Maybe... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sv_libertarian (1317837) on Saturday June 05, 2010 @09:11AM (#32468248) Journal
    This will spark Congress to fund useful things like space exploration. Instead of stupid things. Like oh... pick something.
    • Re:Maybe... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by AnonymousClown (1788472) on Saturday June 05, 2010 @09:17AM (#32468272)

      This will spark Congress to fund useful things like space exploration. Instead of stupid things. Like oh... pick something.

      You need to frame it differently. Find all the congressmen whose districts benefit from this one way or another and have them put in earmarks. Or spin it as some sort of Wall Street rescue package or bailout and watch the fat cats order Congress to fund it.

      If you want to get something funded, go the route of pork or benefiting our financial overlords.

      • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Ahh of course. "Save Wall Street from flooding due to the Polar Ice Caps melting!" or some such.
      • Maybe the ISS needs to elect both a congressman and a senator...

        • by sumdumass (711423)

          The ISS isn't a US territory or state. The territories get a make believe representative with no actual power (like Washington DC), the other get a real representative to be corrupted just like the rest.

      • by Degro (989442)
        Maybe that's the answer. Move the trading floor from Wallstreet to the ISS.
    • Re:Maybe... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Sponge Bath (413667) on Saturday June 05, 2010 @09:21AM (#32468288)

      Like oh... pick something.

      4 billion dollars in corn subsidies for large farming corporations in 2009.

      • Like that. Or any other corporate welfare
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by hedwards (940851)
          Not really, it's corporate welfare for people that adamantly oppose corporate welfare. Here in WA we've got a potential GOP senatorial candidate that got called out for receiving 350k+ in subsidies. He claims that if elected he'll get them cut. I don't think anybody believes him, and the GOP seems to be largely ignoring him.
      • Re:Maybe... (Score:5, Funny)

        by ta bu shi da yu (687699) on Saturday June 05, 2010 @09:33AM (#32468346) Homepage

        What is the cause of U.S. agricultural inefficiencies?

        Do I win a prize? This is about Climate Satellites in Jeopardy, right?

        • What is the cause of U.S. agricultural inefficiencies?

          Do I win a prize? This is about Climate Satellites in Jeopardy, right?

          Unfortunately you are not a climate satellite, so you don't win anything.

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by Fluffeh (1273756)

            Unfortunately you are not a climate satellite, so you don't win anything.

            I thought that's what this article is all about. The climate satellites haven't won anything for years.

            So, what do I win?

            • So if the candidates in a game show don't win, you call the broadcaster and claim the prize for yourself, because after all, the candidates didn't get it, and you knew the answer?

      • Re:Maybe... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by plopez (54068) on Saturday June 05, 2010 @09:40AM (#32468364) Journal

        Seriously, if you could sell it to the Ag. special interests as critical to their industry the spigots would open up and there would be more money than the climate researchers knew what to do with. Also push it as important to the satellite manufacturers and as a high tech jobs program. It's all in how you sell it.

      • And a lot of those subsidies are then paid out by the "Big agro" companies to individual farmers when they sell their grain to the ag company. The largest collector of subsidies, last I knew and it was a couple years ago was (assuming still is) Riceland. Riceland is a Coop. When we booked and sold our rice and soybeans through Riceland, the check they sent us included any federal farm subsidies. We've since built our own grain storage and now sell to whomever is paying the most at that time at the river

        • by sznupi (719324)

          So, what exactly are you doing with the sig "The problem with socialism is eventually you run out of other people's money" - Thatcher., anyway?

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Wildclaw (15718)

            The funny thing about that signature is that the historical truth is quite the opposite.

            Socialism has its own problems, mainly having to do with corruption (redirection of revenue streams) and favoring central planning. (socialist countries that use the free market to its advantage do better than those that use central planning)

            But it is Capitalism that generally have a problem with running out of other people's money, because of Capitalism inherently allowing the accumulation of wealth into a few people's

    • by cjjjer (530715)

      Like oh... pick something.

      Like space exploration?

      Seriously it's time that we as a people get our ducks in a row as it were and start funding things that are going to help all of the people all of the time instead of helping a dozen corps make money.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by smidget2k4 (847334)
        Yes because NASA never invented [howstuffworks.com] anything [nasa.gov] we use every single day.

        We get HUGE bang for our buck in NASA. If you want to cut wasteful spending, you could cut NASA's budget several dozen times over from the military and they'd barely feel it. NASA is probably the best example we have of a government organization gone right, and all people seem to want to do is cut it because they don't understand how science works. Things like NASA exist because all of their inventions came out of necessity of the incredib
    • How about some other countries picking up the tab for a change? Why does the USA have to be the country responsible for everything? (yeah, I'd rather have the USA do it than anyone else, but just saying some other countries should chip in some bucks once in a while)
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by smidget2k4 (847334)
        Because we're the leading research country in the world and we like to keep it that way?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by rgmoore (133276)

      This will spark Congress to fund useful things like space exploration.

      You haven't been watching the way things work in Washington for very long, have you? Programs like this don't lose their funding because they're too expensive or bad ideas. They lose their funding because somebody doesn't like the science they're doing. In this case, it's probably the same gang of denialists who have been fighting tooth and nail against any substantive program to do anything about global warming. They see scientists

      • "They see scientists being unable to tell us what's happening with global warming as a victory, so they'll fight harder than ever to keep denying funding."

        The phrase to understand and protect our home planet [nytimes.com] was deleted from NASA's mission statement in 2006. Mission statements define budget expediture.
      • Denialists huh? Well I have a term for people who BELIEVE in global warming...its called religion. Anyone not believing is a heretic and should be tried for war crimes. Don't believe me? Go look up some documentation on Dr. Hansen.

        If anything, the SKEPTICS are for increased funding of climate and weather data. If you even spent 10 minutes on any web page that told you the other side of the story instead of sprouting rhetoric you would know skeptics believe in further scientific study of the climate (do

    • Like wars in strange lands far away who are no threat to you? 1 trillion dollars buys a lot of space program. Oh, but wait, space programs don't make rich people richer...

  • GOES-R (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    GOES-R?

    Wasn't that the badguy in Ghostbusters?

  • Insane Republicans (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Eravnrekaree (467752)

    The money has all been used up on the much more important (sarcasm) war on Iraq. While Obama has continued these wars when he should have killed them immediately, I doubt we would have gotten as much from McCain/Palin alternative and the Republicans, who ignore the data and as well believe in religious nonsense more than science.

    Because of Republican ideologies, important environmental and human health needs are ignored while we spend billions on a war in Iraq. I call it the result of a mental disorder.

    With

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      The health care bill was nothing more than a health insurance industry bailout that is going to make citizens slaves to a private industry lest they pay the big boss man a pound of flesh for their sins.

      Oh, BTW? Democrats start wars and outsource too. But as long as you keep playing the two party game there is no reason for either of them to change. Sorry to bust your bubble.
    • You are blind (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Chibi Merrow (226057) <mrmerrow@monkeST ... .net minus berry> on Saturday June 05, 2010 @10:09AM (#32468482) Homepage Journal

      The money has all been used up on the much more important (sarcasm) war on Iraq. ...Because of Republican ideologies, important environmental and human health needs are ignored while we spend billions on a war in Iraq. I call it the result of a mental disorder.

      Social spending was not decreased to fund the war in Iraq. Social spending ballooned during the Bush administration. Also? Democrats voted for the war in Iraq as well. The vast majority of them. And they keep voting to fund it. And they have continued to not vote to fund the satellites since taking control of Congress.

      With the health care bill for instance, it is disgusting that we would have Republicans basically murder thousands of more people each year by blocking the health care reform, which will safe millions of lives, while their is always enough money for their stupid wars.

      What part of the health care reform bill will save thousands of lives? Do you even know what the bill does? Have you read any of it? Even a summary? All the bill does is give more money to insurance corporations, force people to buy health insurance who didn't before, and tax the middle class. That's it. There's no magic spells in it to save lives. You've swallowed the partisan bullcrap hook, line, and sinker.

      The US needs to be investing in renewable energy like wind and solar and nuclear fusion development, and on energy efficient improvements to cities to base them on public transit, bike and pedestrian use,

      Wait, what do you want us to spend money on? Earlier you made it sound like you wanted the money spent on health care, now you want it on energy development? Wasn't this article about the lack of funding for earth sensing satellites? You're rambling just a bit...

      and we need to put in tariffs to keep the jobs in the US to fix our economy which has been damaged by offshoring which Republicans love as it increases corporate profit at the expense of working americans.

      You really are completely blinded by partisan rhetoric, aren't you? First off, Democrats are just as pro-corporate (if not even more pro-corporate) than Republicans. There's no difference in the parties there. Second off, how would tariffs help our economy? If we raise tariffs, then everyone we trade with raises tariffs, and then suddenly OUR products are too expensive to be sold in other countries. So you'd raise tariffs to save some worthless manufacturing jobs at the expense of our high-tech industries? That's a policy of insanity.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by FatSean (18753)

        Wow. That was a bunch of awesome talking points condensed into one post.

        It really is sad that the Demcorats caved into the ranting white trash who wanted revenge for 9/11. Even though 9/11 was mostly revenge for our decades of meddling in the Middle East.

        But go on with those tired talking points. Let the right-leaning Americans die for lies in Afghanistan and Iraq.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Chibi Merrow (226057)

          It really is sad that the Demcorats caved into the ranting white trash who wanted revenge for 9/11.

          Ah bigotry, the game the whole family can play.

          But go on with those tired talking points. Let the right-leaning Americans die for lies in Afghanistan and Iraq.

          Why don't you tell me where I'm wrong, then?

      • Re:You are blind (Score:5, Informative)

        by JoshuaZ (1134087) on Saturday June 05, 2010 @10:46AM (#32468642) Homepage
        While many of your points are correct and the person you are replying to is a bit of an ass, let's not forget that these cuts occurred under Bush. See for example http://news.mongabay.com/2007/0502-aaas.html [mongabay.com]. Part of the logic here seemed to almost be "I don't believe that climate change is a problem or is occurring and if I cut your funding you won't be able to show that it is bad." Or something very close to that. This particular problem really can be blamed on the Bush admin.
        • Re:You are blind (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Beyond_GoodandEvil (769135) on Saturday June 05, 2010 @11:30AM (#32468836) Homepage
          This particular problem really can be blamed on the Bush admin.
          You fail civics 101. The appropriations bills begin in the US House of Representatives. Which party has controlled that body since 2006? The Democrats. Ergo if it were truly important to them they could have restored or increased the funding upon gaining control of the legislature.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by javelinco (652113)
          Sure, Bush was president, as if that meant anything in this area. But do you really believe the executive branch cut the purse strings/funding for the project? Do they even teach how the government of the United States works anymore? Hint: the executive branch doesn't get to play with providing funding. Let me get you a link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Separation_of_powers_under_the_United_States_Constitution [wikipedia.org]. Check out the section on "Checks & Balances" and the differences between the Legislati
        • I'm rather annoyed that this alarmist article doesn't mention exactly which satellites they're referring to. I'm willing to bet the majority (if not all) of them do not have "monitor climate change" as a primary mission, and therefore belief or disbelief in AGW had nothing to do with the lack of interest in funding them. In particular, the GOES are weather satellites first and foremost. GOES only requires 2-3 active satellites, and there's currently 4 in orbit (two active, two spares in "storage orbits"), s

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by PenguiN42 (86863)

        Have you read any of it? Even a summary? All the bill does is give more money to insurance corporations, force people to buy health insurance who didn't before, and tax the middle class. That's it.

        Wow. That's it? You left out quite a bit. I can only hope for the sake of your intelligence that you're being purposefully disingenuous.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by pankajmay (1559865)

        What part of the health care reform bill will save thousands of lives? Do you even know what the bill does? Have you read any of it? Even a summary? All the bill does is give more money to insurance corporations, force people to buy health insurance who didn't before, and tax the middle class. That's it. There's no magic spells in it to save lives. You've swallowed the partisan bullcrap hook, line, and sinker.

        Ok, I think you are going a little overboard in trying to prove your point. The health care bill though may be not as dramatic, is a significant step.

        Here are some of the things it does, that did not happen before:

        1. Cover pre-existing medical condition.
        2. Cover a child with pre-existing condition.
        3. The insurance companies are not allowed to rescind their coverage if you develop a serious illness
        4. Customers of all insurance plans will ow have a right to appeal any denial of coverage - not possible before for ever
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      It's OK, the right wing Republicans have God on their side. He'll tell them the weather if they just read their bible enough times. And we all know that God is on the side of capitalism, big oil, and Rush Limbaugh. No need to worry about global warming, it doesn't exist.
      • by cbeaudry (706335)

        Insightful?

        Really?

        Seems to me Slashdot has lost its way. Its no longer necessary to be a real geek, as in , doing your own research and knowing what you actually talk about.
        Whats important is to pretend like the subject is a right vs left matter, bash the right (for no good reason), blame it all on big oil and Lumbaugh, and you are insightful.

        Shit, I should mode this idiot Informative... I mean... it makes just as much sense.

        • The truth hurts sometimes. TRUTH. Hey, have you figured out whether Jesus accepted a PPO or an HMO when he healed the sick? If he was a Christian republican he certainly wouldn't have done it for free. Do you like Limbaugh want America to fail and people to be hurt just so you can say it was Obama's fault? There are lots of good reasons to bash the right, right now. What would Thomas Jefferson say about the current state of affairs in the U.S. Oh yeah, according to Texas (the Bush benchmark for the right wi
          • by cbeaudry (706335)

            Your post just shows your narrow minded ignorance.
            You are just as bad as those you are trying to paint into a corner.

            I'm Canadian, and dont believe in religion.

            Your Jesus, Christians, republicans, Limbaugh, Obama, right or left wing, Thomas Jefferson, Texas and Bush all mean fuck all to me.

            I use research, reason and dont rely on the news, not even Canadian news which is leaps an bounds above your left and right propaganda TV stations.

            Keep thinking like a small minded simpleton. Thats how those in power want

            • Another Canadian who is full of himself. Canadian TV is shit. And if you think it isn't full of propaganda you are a moron. the CBC is an NDP/Liberal Party propaganda platform pure and simple. It aught to be eliminated. The shows suck. TV is there for entertainment, and CBC hasn't been entertaining... EVER. The CRTC is best known as the Canadian Roadblock To Communication. I have seen more of the world than you I warrant and speak from experience. Canadians by and large sit back and judge other countries, e
              • by cbeaudry (706335)

                Nice little rant you got there.

                All tv is full of propaganda. However American TV is worst than Canadian TV. CBC is shit, but then... you only took the time to mention 1 tv station for the whole country.

                On the other hand you conveniently skipped over the fact that I dont rely on news for my information. CRTC is a Bell puppet, its unfortunate to say the least. However it isnt uniquely corrupt in the world.

                I have been to many countries. I have been all over the USA, twice. Do not presume to know who I am or wh

                • There is so much that is wrong to what you say it would take a book to address. All I'll say on the matter is this:

                  There is no hatred, no ignorance here. I am a very centered person. I don't hate myself. I don't hate others except when I have to give up my heritage to accommodate people who come here and want me to change because they are unwilling to follow our traditions. And I am big on tradition. It is what makes heritage. If you don't understand that, you are likely the one who is self hating. Are you

                  • by cbeaudry (706335)

                    You obviously have some sort of agenda.

                    You come out of nowhere with your comments.
                    What is all this bs about religion?

                    Pipe down. You dont have a patent on history. You aren't the only one who can read.

                    But your comment are defiantly all over the place, and you cant stick to a subject.

                    Try to hold a coherent conversation. Until then, you can continue with your monologues... on your own.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by budgenator (254554)

      The US needs to be investing in renewable energy like wind and solar and nuclear fusion development, and on energy efficient improvements to cities to base them on public transit, bike and pedestrian use, and we need to put in tariffs to keep the jobs in the US to fix our economy which has been damaged by offshoring which Republicans love as it increases corporate profit at the expense of working americans.

      Every time I try to go somewhere the road is blocked by another truck hauling a 75 foot long wind turbine blade trying to make a left turn to head to the new wind farm. The local businesses are in near revolt because they can't get a building permit if they don't include a 6 foot wide paved bicycle/pedestrian path in the plans and all of the local buses have bicycle racks mounted on them. With the new bus system interconnects in our area, I can travel by public bus 150 miles! Just because your not seeing bi

  • National Security (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Nemilar (173603)

    This will probably wind up getting funding for one reason -- national security. It's vital to defense to be able to monitor (and to a large degree, predict) the weather. Think multi-billion dollar supercarrier fleet accidentally heading into a hurricane.

    Or does the defense department have their own weather satellite network?

    • by hedwards (940851)
      We at the DoD can neither confirm nor deny the existence of whether changing technology somewhere outside the stratosphere.
    • Re:National Security (Score:4, Informative)

      by idontgno (624372) on Saturday June 05, 2010 @10:47AM (#32468654) Journal

      Or does the defense department have their own weather satellite network?

      That's a good question. It's wrapped up in this story.

      The short answer is that yes, DoD has its own weather satellite network for the polar orbiting capability. It's called DMSP [wikipedia.org], and it's the granddaddy of polar orbiter weather satellites. Spacecraft from that program are still flying, but no new ones are being acquired. After the current and on-orbit spares are gone, that's probably it.

      Why?

      As part of a Clinton-administration order, all US weather satellite operations and acquisition activities were "converged" into a single agency. DoD lost its ability to independently acquire military weather sats, or begin development of new ones. The joint Earth observation satellite program now includes NOAA, NASA, and the DoD, and they have a limited budget and somewhat conflicting goals. But the practical effect is that everyone has to contribute to, and use when they become available, the next-generation EO satellites the article was talking about. To replace DMSP birds, the DoD is depending on NPOESS, since that's the next-gen polar orbiter.

      • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        That was changed earlier this year - the NPOESS was terminated and DoD and NASA/NOAA are now on separate development paths. DoD will be responsible for the morning polar satellites while NASA/NOAA will develop satellites for the mid-afternoon orbits. The United States will continue to rely on the European Metop satellites for weather data in the morning orbit.

  • Does anyone know anything about how the US network integrates with it's foreign equivelants? Is there any integratation? The ESA and Japanese Agency both profess to have, albeit limited, capabilities in this area and I seem to remember a little collaboration between the various structures. Am I just imagining things?
    Regardless, doesn't it make sense for this sort of mission to occur within an international framework. Metric jokes aside, wouldn't it be fairer for everyone to take on the cost of these satel
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by AHuxley (892839)
      Sputnik set the legal overflight idea. The US invested in science to catch up the science gap. Flushed with ww2 German tech they trained a generation to a very high standard.
      The problem with an educated public is they are hard to manage.
      American scientific needs slipped, public funding slipped and science outside of military-industrial complex was cut.
      The public became more predicable and profits where safe.
      The dick waiving contest ended with the Soviets, collaboration means giving up control and a lo
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by phantomfive (622387)
        Do you always interpret every historical event in such a way that makes it sound like a conspiracy?
        • by AHuxley (892839)
          Most parts of the world try and fund their next generation and keep their basic infrastructure maintained.
          So I hope the US gets some more weather sats up and continues providing data, short term and historical.
          But the pager network sat does seem to show some views on redundancy and planning.
          Build one good sat network, reposition/relaunch if and when needed vs some redundancy and ongoing support.
          Some of the directions the US space networks might be moving into: The High Frontier (transcript link on rig
          • "Never ascribe to conspiracy that which can be explained by incompetence" is a good rule that is generally true.
    • by etresoft (698962)

      Does anyone know anything about how the US network integrates with it's foreign equivelants?

      There are no foreign equivalents. There is collaboration, but US funding and capabilities dwarf those of other countries. Foreign governments do not fund much space activities other than subsidizing industry satellites, but those aren't very useful for science.

      • by hcpxvi (773888)
        There are no foreign equivalents.
        This is less true than it was since the launch of Metop-A in 2006 to cover the morning polar sun-sync orbit. (An AC already noted this above.) Everything I have heard about NPOESS (the US programme to provide new weather satellites for the afternoon slot) is that it has been a huge trainwreck, with massive cost overruns and delays.
        Foreign governments do not fund much space activities other than subsidizing industry satellites, but those aren't very useful for science
  • Let's collaborate (Score:5, Insightful)

    by timeOday (582209) on Saturday June 05, 2010 @09:48AM (#32468392)
    Environmental monitoring seems like one area where the US does not need to be self-sufficient. I wonder if we could work more closely with Europe and Japan so together we'd get all the data we need without having to foot the whole bill.
    • Re:Let's collaborate (Score:5, Informative)

      by wiredlogic (135348) on Saturday June 05, 2010 @10:15AM (#32468504)

      The US is too large to receive adequate coverage from across the Atlantic and Pacific. Japan has had its own problems with an imagery gap and was using GOES-9 [wikipedia.org] on loan from us until a few years ago. Geosynchronous satellites can't easily be repositioned as it wastes fuel that is needed for basic stationkeeping.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by etresoft (698962)

      I wonder if we could work more closely with Europe and Japan so together we'd get all the data we need without having to foot the whole bill.

      We already do that. One of the key instruments on NASA's Terra satellite is Japan's ASTER. Terra is on year 11 of a 5 year mission. But Japan's funding in this area is much smaller than that of the US.

    • "I wonder if we could work more closely with Europe and Japan so together we'd get all the data we need without having to foot the whole bill."

      Weather data has been shared for many years via the WMO [wmo.int]. IIRC when you take in the cost of the satelities the US spends about as much as the rest of the members combined.
  • Outsourced (Score:2, Funny)

    by Bazman (4849)

    Why launch your own satellites when you can just get the data from other nations - doubtless India and China will be launching plenty of satellites soon, Europe still puts up the odd bird, Japan, Korea etc etc.

    Even if they dont sell you the data, all you need are some radios and the FBIs decryption machinery and the weather info will be on the torrent sites before it's out of date. Err maybe.

    • Re:Outsourced (Score:5, Informative)

      by idontgno (624372) on Saturday June 05, 2010 @10:33AM (#32468586) Journal

      Because where the satellite is has a large impact on the data.

      There are really only two classes of orbit for Earth-observation satellite platforms: geostationary and low-earth polar. In the summary, GOES-R is the US follow-on geostationary, and NPOESS is the US follow-on polar orbiter.

      Geostationary satellites provide continuous coverage but somewhat low resolution, and coverage of the same hemisphere of the Earth at all times. Because satellite observations at the limb of the visible hemisphere is low-quality (low incident angle with the Earth's surface, long slant path through the atmosphere, etc.), you really can't just have two geos for the entire world. You need at least four, at 90 degree offsets, and more if you can afford it. The US operates two: GOES-11 and GOES-12, out over the eastern Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean respectively. There are more, operated by other nations, and we do share data with them. We even coordinate operations: When the Japanese Meteorological Agency had its on-station geosat (GMS-5) fail and its replacement failed to reach orbit after launch, the US reactivated the retired Pacific geo GOES-9, shifted its orbit to cover GMS-5's slot, and leased it to the Japanese. (Leased, of course, because (A) you need to cover the additional costs of operating another satellite, and (B) why walk away from profit?)

      So, what's the point of that little discussion? If the US loses both of current active geostationaries, someone else (another nation) would have to shift an existing spacecraft over to cover it and lease it to us. That's a bit bigger than "sharing the data", which, as I point out, we already do. And that's also only a temporary state of affairs, since no one will ever shift over their primary on-station geostationary. It'd have to be a spare, and probably not a future spare, but a deactivated retired spacecraft, and therefore very very temporary.

      That's geostationary spacecraft. In summary, the US needs to have 2 spacecraft stationed at 135 degrees West and 104 degrees West, and no one else will be providing them on any terms and with any permanence we'd need in order to rely on them.

      Polar-orbiters? Kind of a similar situation. A polar-orbiting earth-observing spacecraft orbits at about 100 miles up and an orbital inclination of about 80 degrees. (A 90 degree orbital inclination passes over both poles; a 0 degree inclination parallels the equator.) That orbital path allows the spacecraft to look down at Earth in a track that eventually (approximately every 30 hours) covers the entire surface of the Earth. But that's a long time between looks at a particular spot on Earth. The low orbit provides wonderful resolution: each pixel in the imagery of one of the next-generation polar orbiters can be as small as 400 meters. For meteorology and climate observation, that's fantastic. But very low frequency. So you need multiple spacecraft to provide adequate temporal resolution (each pixel is newer than 24 hours). Also, different spacecraft can look at any given point on Earth at different local times (i.e., one spacecraft sees Albuquerque at about 6 AM local time, the next sees it at around 2:30 PM.) This matters because time-of-day variation and sun zenith angle matter at the resolutions and sensitivities of the instruments in question.

      No one but the US operates polar orbiters in the polar slots that the US currently occupies, so no one can provide the data for us to use.

  • by Fuzzums (250400)

    Enough people who couldn't care any less. And frankly I don't too.

    The whole point about climate change isn't climate change.
    There is only one question. Do you want to poison and pollute the world we're living in?

    • Re:So? (Score:5, Informative)

      by idontgno (624372) on Saturday June 05, 2010 @10:58AM (#32468702) Journal

      I think the climate angle of this story is being overplayed. Makes sense, really; that's the sexy hot topic in the big-brain set, and a great way to sell if you're selling satellites.

      But these aren't just climate change "OMG Evil CO2" satellites. These are operational meteorological satellites. If you like decent weather forecasts and value the ability to track hurricanes and typhoons (and other assorted tropical storm phenomena), you care about these spacecraft. Satellite meteorology has revolutionized severe weather handling and medium-range weather forecasting for the last 40 years. Let's not quit now because Al Gore has painted the cross of Climate Change on the sides of these spacecraft.

    • by robot256 (1635039)

      Regardless of what we can do about climate change, if we're responsible for it, or the fact that the things we do in the name of "climate change" are things we should be doing anyways, satellite observation is incredibly important. We need information about Earth so we can act in a responsible manner to preserve the planet as well as ourselves.

      It's all very well and good to say "just don't fuck with it," but the truth is even if we were perfect, the world would still change in ways we cannot predict. Ear

    • by Jaime2 (824950)

      Do you want to poison and pollute the world we're living in?

      That's a loaded question. If that were the only question, then nearly all modern society would be thrown away. The result would be a population drop to under 4 billion people and a much lower quality of life for the survivors. Besides, poison is relative, so the question doesn't even have a precise meaning. There's a bumper crop of oil-eating bacteria in the Gulf of Mexico this summer.

  • The sad part is... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tiny69 (34486) on Saturday June 05, 2010 @09:53AM (#32468408) Homepage Journal
    ...someone probably received an award and promotion for claming they saved the government money.
  • tom skilling / the weather channel can't pitch in? and maybe even launch there own?

  • Historical Record... (Score:4, Informative)

    by Lunatrik (1136121) on Saturday June 05, 2010 @10:20AM (#32468530)
    One thing that is frequently overlooked is the importance of comparable satellites through time for long-term environmental monitoring. This makes collaboration with other countries /sensors challenging, as to say Landsat ETM data's ~30m (for example) is comparable to SPOT data's ~10m (again, for example) is quite a stretch. Common tools for taking care of these differences are fraught with problems, and worse still many people don't care about or just ignore these problems during analysis....
    • by etresoft (698962) on Saturday June 05, 2010 @10:52AM (#32468682)
      It is even harder than that. Resolution isn't important for science - spectral bands are. Landsat ETM+ has 8 bands, while SPOT has 4. The MODIS instrument alone on NASA's Terra and Aqua spacecraft has 36 bands. ASTER has 15 bands just for infrared.
      • by Lunatrik (1136121) on Saturday June 05, 2010 @10:58AM (#32468706)
        "Resolution isn't important for science"

        Spatial resolution is very important in my field (Land Use/Cover analysis), mostly due to Modifiable Areal Unit (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modifiable_areal_unit_problem) / Ecological Fallacy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ecological_fallacy) issues.

        That being said, I do agree Spectral resolution is very important as well, and a difference I shouldn't have omitted in my original post. Even radiometric and temporal resolution matters when you get down to it.
  • I sort of figure an honest awger and a honest denier would like to see lot of new data from a lot of different sources. But let speculate that awg is flakey. Then figure the reasons are at a geopolitical level. For instance, to eliminate sovereigny (spelling) or real tech progress, then new good data might well be inconvenient.

    If you figure this is just a dem sort of behavior, looking at Cheney and at GW doing geopolitics would be instructive.

  • Well, between the 350 report and BP oil spill government planners realized there will be no environment to monitor pretty soon :) Why spend the money ;
  • We don't need no stinking satellites. We make this climate stuff up now as we go along.
  • I think it's pretty obvious. The oil plume as reached space.
  • It's sad to see that anti-intellectualism has taken such a foot hold on this website. So much for news for nerds. It's amazing seeing people here arguing in favor of cutting science research.
  • So, climate satts have been underfunded for ten years. Who took over the funding and policy apparatus in 2000 that might have led to this? Hmmm, could it be [washingtonpost.com]... SATAN [nytimes.com]?

  • There is an agreement between ESA/EUMETSAT on the European side and NASA/NOAA on the American side that the burden of Earth observation is shared.

    For operational polar satellites, Europe takes care of the morning orbits and the US does the afternoon orbits. Both sides share (or intend to share) all data in Near Real Time (NRT).

    Also sensors/instruments are exchanged and mounted on platforms (read: satellites) from the other partner in the agreement. This can mean that a sensor built in the US can be flown on

  • ...when (no matter which party is in power) they'll just massage the data to say what they want anyway? Why not just skip a step and let them craft it from the beginning?

  • This really *is* a big deal. I've been working in a related area since 2001, and every year it seems like the NASA budget is getting worse and worse. We are funded by NASA and collect environmental data (similar to one of the satellites that "just" failed, ICESat) and have often been working on a shoestring when it comes to R&D and hardware. These satellites take years to develop and finally get into orbit. Without funding *now*, we could possibly be years without proper monitoring of our Earth. It
  • Would any of these ESA programs provide the same data: Earth Explorers at a glance [esa.int] ?

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