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NASA Earth Space Science

U.S. In Danger of Losing Earth-Observing Satellite Capability 258

New submitter crazyjj writes "As reported in Wired, a recent National Research Council report indicates a growing concern for NASA, the NOAA, and USGS. While there are currently 22 Earth-observing satellites in orbit, this number is expected to drop to as low as six by the year 2020. The U.S. relies on this network of satellites for weather forecasting, climate change data, and important geologic and oceanographic information. As with most things space and NASA these days, the root cause is funding cuts. The program to maintain this network was funded at $2 billion as recently as 2002, but has since been scaled back to a current funding level of $1.3 billion, with only two replacement satellites having definite launch dates."
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U.S. In Danger of Losing Earth-Observing Satellite Capability

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  • A perfect example (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ThatsNotPudding ( 1045640 ) on Monday May 07, 2012 @01:55PM (#39917551)
    of Short-Sightedness.

    The anti-science crowd will soon be racking up an impressive body count - including their own voting-against-their-own-interest constituencies in hurricane and tornado country.
  • Correction.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Monday May 07, 2012 @01:55PM (#39917553) Homepage

    Public and Scientific earth viewing satellites are dwindling. The military has plenty of money to launch all they need.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 07, 2012 @01:59PM (#39917587)
    It is worse than that. There is a group of people in the US Congress who just hate anything that the "other side" supports. It does not matter what it is they will work against anything that they think the other side wants to support. They care more about the success of their party than they do the country they swore to serve. The sad thing is that it has gone on long enough that two such groups have formed. We just have a bunch of obstinate dick heads now due to gerrymandering and an absent media.
  • Adam Smith (Score:1, Insightful)

    by ThatsNotPudding ( 1045640 ) on Monday May 07, 2012 @02:00PM (#39917609)
    Perhaps the GOP-dominated Congress will soon suggest the Miracle of the Market place for all weather satellites. Not only hire them to build and launch, give them a sweet no-bid contract to run the service (behind a paywall, of course). Hey, it's worked so well for the Prison-Industrial complex, right?

    In the interest of corporate profits, the Invisible Hand is now the Invisible Middle Finger.
  • Re:Like it or not (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 07, 2012 @02:07PM (#39917693)
    A growing percentage of our GDP is going to Wall Street billionaires.
    A growing percentage of our GDP is going to the super wealthy.
    A growing percentage of our GDP is going to big bankers.
    A growing percentage of our GDP is going to military contractors.
    A growing percentage of our GDP is going to maintaining certain industries failed business models.

    Either find a way to make everyone play by the same rules, or expect repercussions from the serfs.
  • Re:Correction.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Monday May 07, 2012 @02:08PM (#39917699) Journal

    It's even more worrying that civilian instruments are declining with respect to militarism. If it were just cutbacks across the board that caused this, it would be unfortunate. But what we actually see indicates a (continuing) shift in priorities. Military spending is more important to the powers that run the US than scientific spending. Notably, supremacy of the military and disdain for intellectuals are both defining characteristics of fascist states [].

  • Re:Adam Smith (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Jhon ( 241832 ) on Monday May 07, 2012 @02:09PM (#39917719) Homepage Journal

    "Perhaps the GOP-dominated Congress will soon suggest"...

    Congress has been DNC dominated from what? 2008 until 2010? STRONGLY dominated? And the GOP had slight majorities before then... This report is from 2007 with just a recent update...

    Your dig at the GOP just doesn't sound reasonable...

  • by Ironchew ( 1069966 ) on Monday May 07, 2012 @02:09PM (#39917721)

    The right hates science and it's conclusions, and the problem with these satellites is that they promote science and the conclusions scientists reach.

    The right doesn't mind science R&D (i.e. the fraction of research that private companies can get an immediate ROI on.) It's just the pesky fundamental research with no foreseeable application and no quarterly profit that gets them upset; but without the fundamental research, there are no more breakthroughs.

  • by Jeng ( 926980 ) on Monday May 07, 2012 @02:12PM (#39917743)

    Funny, I've always seen it as the "fiscal conservatives" want us to quit "wasting" money in space so instead things have to be billed under the military to get anything done.

    Find me a liberal who opposes NASA funding based off of it going to military purposes, cause I think you are full of shit.

  • by mhajicek ( 1582795 ) on Monday May 07, 2012 @02:17PM (#39917795)
    I noticed there's no profit in that.
  • Re:Adam Smith (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 07, 2012 @02:21PM (#39917851)

    It's not your fathers GOP anymore. The Tea Party folks insisted on cuts, and they got them, including funding for tsunami warning systems and weather programs. This days before the Japan quake and tsunami, as I recall.

    Shipping, airlines, agriculture, the military, all depend on accurate weather forecasting.

    We'd have never made it to the moon if these guys had been around back then, and if they have their way, we'll soon be losing passenger planes, cargo ships, and wars.

  • by Grelfer ( 2580321 ) on Monday May 07, 2012 @02:32PM (#39917955)
    That may be so, but very few Republicans these days are fiscal conservatives. Many more are only social conservatives, like Rick Santorum: ready and willing to tell other people how to live their lives.

    Corporations, on the other hand, get free rein.
  • Re:Funding? No (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 07, 2012 @02:37PM (#39918003)

    Yup. Now that companies have their own satellites it would make more sense to privatise weather stuff. NASA is there for the long term research that is too risky for the corporate sector. You know, Mars missions, Moon missions in '69, that kind of thing.

  • Panem et circenses (Score:4, Insightful)

    by arth1 ( 260657 ) on Monday May 07, 2012 @02:43PM (#39918063) Homepage Journal

    It's the decline of the holy roman empire 2.0
    The US is rapidly becoming a has-been, and at this point it may be irreversible. The tea-party and other opportunists wanting bread and circus are just a symptom of the decline, not the cause.
    Once people are more interested in preserving what they have and not risk wasting anything than taking a risk at investing in the future, then the decline has already started.

  • Re:Not surprising (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Monday May 07, 2012 @02:45PM (#39918093) Journal

    On an aggregate level, R&D has a much better ROI than war. The problem is that the profits from an investment in basic science are realized by society as a whole, instead of the individuals involved in doing or funding the research.

  • by Ironchew ( 1069966 ) on Monday May 07, 2012 @02:49PM (#39918141)

    Truly spiritual christian types do not have a lot of time or room for hate.

    You seem to have a lot of room for ad hominem, though. Nice troll.

  • by artor3 ( 1344997 ) on Monday May 07, 2012 @02:50PM (#39918155)

    Bullshit. The Dems wasted a lot of time trying to reach out to the Republicans by supporting their ideas. The individual mandate, end of life counseling (now called death panels), cap and trade, the DREAM act... all of those were Republican ideas that they turned violently against as soon as the Democrats supported them.

    The whole reason NASA is even being cut is because the GOP took the country hostage last summer over the debt ceiling. Nevermind that most of the debt comes from the wars they supported and the tax cuts they demanded.

  • by MightyYar ( 622222 ) on Monday May 07, 2012 @02:52PM (#39918179)

    The really sick thing is the first time I remember hearing the mandate as a serious proposal was by some Republicans offering an alternative just after Hillary released her healthcare proposal in the early 90s.

    Warped world, that Washington.

  • by MightyYar ( 622222 ) on Monday May 07, 2012 @02:54PM (#39918199)

    It is very difficult to look at the Bush presidency - some of it including control of both houses of congress - and come away with a feeling that the Republicans represent fiscal discipline.

  • by pixelpusher220 ( 529617 ) on Monday May 07, 2012 @02:55PM (#39918215)
    Seriously? The LEFT is against NASA? Bush tried to kill the Voyager programs for a measly $4 million/year in savings. The 2 single farthest things we've ever sent into space sending back data we won't be able to reproduce for literally 40 years and he wanted to kill the program for that little bit of savings.

    The LEFT is all about funding NASA, the problem is the RIGHT's obstinate blocking of anything related to INVESTMENT in our future. Why don't we have a Shuttle program? Yet give out more than NASA's ENTIRE budget to the oil industry EVERY YEAR?

    The LEFT is not the problem.

    On a more rational note, gerrymandered districts are a major problem on both sides of the aisle. But that's a more fundamentally broken part of our government.
  • Re:Correction.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dave420 ( 699308 ) on Monday May 07, 2012 @03:02PM (#39918297)
    Yes. There's a massive difference between actual long-term science projects (such as weather monitoring, climate recording, etc., which cost many millions to get into space) and some hobbyist PCB in a rapidly-decaying orbit with relatively-useless instrumentation. Please don't confuse the two.
  • Re:Like it or not (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tekrat ( 242117 ) on Monday May 07, 2012 @03:15PM (#39918411) Homepage Journal

    People with brains, and a sharp sense of reality.

  • by SteveFoerster ( 136027 ) <steve AT stevefoerster DOT com> on Monday May 07, 2012 @03:23PM (#39918515) Homepage

    The other independent is Bernie Sanders. Like him or not, he definitely sticks to his socialist positions. He's willing to make deals with strange bedfellows though - for instance, he worked with Ron Paul on the Fed audit that uncovered trillions of dollars going to major banks.

    This is not strange to me. Progressives want government to do more and libertarians want government to do less, but neither wants the corporatism that we have today. At least in the short term, progressives and libertarians should be cooperating. Unfortunately, most people in both groups are too busy hating the other side to think this one through.

  • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Monday May 07, 2012 @03:49PM (#39918855) Homepage Journal

    Yeah -- Obamacare is really Romneycare is really Bob Dole's 1993 plan.

    People like to say there's no real difference between the Democrats and Republicans, but that's not true. Democrats vote *for* Republican initiatives, Republicans vote against them.

  • by bjdevil66 ( 583941 ) on Monday May 07, 2012 @03:52PM (#39918905)

    I would buy this argument if the Dems (or the GOP) were trying to even attempt to balance the budget. That way we could look to the future with hope for stopping fund cuts like these.

    Instead, both sides - and 99% of Americans, for that matter - aren't willing to make the sacrifices necessary.

    The lower income people who aren't paying a penny in income taxes but getting thousands back each year as Earned Income Credits... (Ask some of them what they do with that money... "It's vacation time, baby!"... GUILTY

    The corporations shielding their billions in income overseas... GUILTY

    The Dems that won't lower the corporate tax rate and at least get a large chunk of the money being held overseas... GUILTY

    The politicians who keep giving the 99% their cash "they deserve" by simply having a pulse... GUILTY

    The GOP for invading Iraq without good evidence and dropping a cool trillion plus on it... GUILTY

    The Defense Department's never-ending war machine (the amount spent on four or five F-22s - that will never see combat, BTW - would cover the satellite funding difference)... GUILTY

    The Dems who do nothing to stop the millions of illegal immigrants from coming here to cut local costs (violent crime, ID theft, social program costs) - possibly because they see a giant block of future, loyal Dem voters - all in the name of "stopping racism", of course - GUILTY

    The American public as a whole, for not giving a crap about others, all while lying/cheating/stealing a little more than the day before and saying, "the banks did it - why not us?", and ignoring the imminent destruction of the dollar and/or the American economy... "Just keep the time bomb going somehow, and I don't care how..." GUILTY

    It's really sad to watch our American empire slowly dying as it has been for decades now, with us - the American people - doing all the wrong things (or nothing at all) to stop it. We might as well rename our country The Neo Roman Empire (or for you Asimov fans, Trantor)...

    The real solution is for people to really start caring about each other again, but anybody talking all "faggy and shit" like that is laughed out of town...

  • by Kohath ( 38547 ) on Monday May 07, 2012 @04:18PM (#39919241)

    Obviously, finger-pointing is the answer. Just look at nearly every comment on this news story. The consensus solution for NASA's problems is clearly finger-pointing and trying to find someone to blame.

    Religion-haters are sure it's the fault of the religionists. Military-haters aren't sure whose fault it is, but did they mention they hate the military? Ditto for the banker-haters and the millionaire-haters. Leftists are sure it's the fault of the right. Rightists are sure it's the fault of the left. The "use Science as a wedge issue" crowd are sure it's because of the War on Science (tm). No one has mentioned the War on Women (tm) yet, so I guess NASA doesn't poll well with women.

    Here's an alternate idea -- NASA isn't getting funded for three reasons:

    1. NASA doesn't have very many votes to sell
    2. There's a lot less uncommitted money in the GDP. The money that is there is already over-committed to retirement spending, health-care spending, and repayment of debt. Investments in the future are hard to justify because ROIs are down.
    3. The US no longer has a culture that can unify. On anything. Ever. So all government spending is either for "our side" or "their side", never for the common good. This leads some (including me) to the conclusion that very little money should be spent by government -- until the culture swings back to where we can unify on some things again.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 07, 2012 @06:18PM (#39920873)

    The economy boomed because it was fueled by unsustainable mortgages and credit card debt. And then before that, we had an Internet bubble.

    Bush cut taxes and we had a boom. Bush Sr and Clinton raised taxes and we had a boom. Both booms were followed by a bust. IMHO, bumping or lowering the tax rate by a few percent doesn't really affect the economy as much as people claim, and probably a lot less than say the Fed's monetary policy. It does significantly affect government revenues though, all other things being equal (e.g. without a crash or boom).

  • by Omestes ( 471991 ) <> on Monday May 07, 2012 @07:14PM (#39921655) Homepage Journal

    The Dems who do nothing to stop the millions of illegal immigrants from coming here to cut local costs (violent crime, ID theft, social program costs) - possibly because they see a giant block of future, loyal Dem voters - all in the name of "stopping racism", of course - GUILTY

    You said some stuff I agree with, and some stuff I don't. This one, though, annoys me.

    What the hell have the Republicans done? Building a very expensive, and completely ineffective, wall doesn't count. The Republicans even adopted a very nonsensical policy of "We must keep them all out, before we can do anything about the ones that are here".

    Both sides LOVE illegal immigrants. Democrats love the idea of the eternally-forthcoming, yet never coming, wave of Latino liberal voters. Republicans love them because they are an infinite font of cheap labor, which can suppress wages and break unions. No one wants to kill illegal immigration.

    our American empire

    For some reason this phrase doesn't fill me with the glee I suppose it should.

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