AGU to Cruz: NASA Earth Science Actually Benefits Texas

Sen. Ted Cruz
Sen. Ted Cruz

The American Geophysical Union (AGU) sent the following letter to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) after he said NASA was spending too much on Earth science research at the expense of human spaceflight during a hearing of the Senate Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness that he chaired.

13 March 2015

The Honorable Ted Cruz
Chair, Senate Space, Science, and Competitiveness Subcommittee
185 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Chairman Cruz:

On behalf of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) and its more than 60,000 Earth and space scientists, I would like to elucidate our position regarding the value of Earth science at NASA.

Earth sciences are a fundamental part of science. They constitute hard sciences that help us understand the world we live in and provide a basis for knowledge and understanding of natural hazards, weather forecasting, air quality, and water availability, among other concerns.

The priorities of NASA’s Earth Science Division are based on Decadal Surveys conducted by the National Academy of Sciences’ Space Studies Board to determine consensus among scientific experts on the most critical leading-­edge scientific areas of research over the next decade. The applicability of these missions cannot be overstated given their impact on your constituents.

Earth science within NASA provides a broad array of benefits and applications across the public and private sectors. In the wake of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, NASA’s UAVSAR project allowed response teams to track the movement of the oil into coastal waterways and assisted in monitoring the impact and recovery of affected areas along the Gulf of Mexico. MODIS, an instrument on NASA’s AQUA satellite, helps monitor dangerous algal blooms that have decimated the economies of coastal communities.

More generally, Earth Science Division missions aid in flood prediction, earthquake response, and severe storm tracking across the Great Plains. Greater knowledge and prediction skill are urgent when we consider the effort, time and costs of protecting infrastructure along coasts, rebuilding fish populations, developing new water resources for manufacturing and agriculture, and restoring communities in the wake of hazards. These observations, and many others like them, are integral and require the vantage point of outer

The purpose of AGU is to promote discovery in Earth and space science for the benefit of humanity. Our members are working on research and development for a wide array of Earth and space science topics, and we welcome the opportunity to meet with you and discuss their work, as well as ways we might be able to assist you. We look forward to working with you;
please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at any time.


Christine W. McEntee
Executive Director/CEO
American Geophysical Union

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    Does anyone know of a C-Span style, I looked on C-Span, recording of the hearing?

  • Douglas Messier

    I would look on the subcommittee website or the committee that the subcommittee is part of. They usually record these and post them. I did see part of the hearing on a website somewhere. I really don’t have time to look at the moment.

  • GrumpyOldProgrammer

    Huzzah – well spoken

  • Vlad Lenin

    Umm let’s see about McEntee’s political contributions:

    FEINSTEIN, DIANNE — democrat
    PERLMUTTER, EDWIN G — democrat
    CANTWELL, MARIA — democrat
    BALDWIN, TAMMY — democrat
    WARREN, ELIZABETH — democrat

    From the AGU:


    Ah, a political hack. I wonder if she knew about the earth science Carter moved out of NASA. Congress, like a broken watch, is correct every now and then. And in this case, Cruz is right. Some people just can’t admit that because they let politics cloud everything they do. It’s pathetic, but that’s our country.

    These days, USGS and NOAA are more than capable of assuming earth science missions completely (from cradle to grave) and allowing NASA to get back to aeronautics and space exploration full-time. No one is proposing putting up a wall between these agencies, it’s a matter of consolidation. NASA needs some serious reform and this is one good step.

  • Sure, and that reform starts with sending all that Earth sciences line item money over to the black hole money pit that is Constellation. Oops, I mean SLS and Orion. That should get the job done. Wonderful insights, Vlad. Glad to see that congress has the solution to this Constellation problem in their sights.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    Found it, thanks!

  • Hemingway

    Here is the video of Senator Ted Cruz First Q&A at NASA Budget Hearing:

  • Douglas Messier

    Ha! You clearly haven’t been paying attention to NOAA’s problems with its next generation weather satellites. You’re now going to load them with more responsibilities? Oh, good luck with that.

    NASA has never done aeronautics and space exploration full time. Earth science has always been part of its mandate.

    There’s no evidence that the Earth science work is at all interfering with aeronautical research (whose latest plan has received praise) or space exploration. The problems with commercial crew and SLS/Orion can both be traced to Congress. That august body has unfunded the former while insisting NASA use an extremely expensive architecture for the latter.

  • windbourne

    Other than perlmutter and kaine, all of those were women.
    I would guess that her contributions are about being feminist, than about science.

    And vlad, the one that is allowing politics to cloud their science and judgement, is both parties. Cruz is one that is obviously ignoring science. Sadly, he is one of many.
    BUT, he is WAY OFF BASE.

  • There’s no doubt that understanding the weather is valuable. Reasonable people can disagree whether the earth science work belongs at NASA or NOAA. Discretionary budgets are capped because of the Budget Control Act, so consolidating the work at NOAA would probably be a good thing (reduced redundancy / overhead). The NOAA folks don’t deserve that kind of slam: if they got the budget to go with the mission I’m sure they’d be able to do it.

  • Douglas Messier

    NASA’s Earth Science Division does a lot more than “understanding the weather.” If that’s what you think they do, you’ve got it all wrong.

    It would not be an easy task to rip Earth Science from NASA where it’s always been and try to consolidate it at NOAA. Suddenly NOAA has a lot more to manage involving work that’s outside their current scope. Suddenly the Earth Science people are removed from the support system they had within NASA. It’s one of those things that sounds good on paper but is probably a recipe for bureaucratic chaos and inefficiency.

    Nobody’s presented any compelling reason to do so. There’s no evidence that Earth Sciences is performing poorly. Or that NASA is mismanaging it. Or that NOAA would necessarily do a better job. Or that there’s so much overlap that moving Earth Sciences to NOAA would save an appreciable amount of money.

  • Matt

    I viewed only that short video where the senator Cruz has asked Bolden
    about NASA’s mission. And that was a good question and Bolden’s delayed
    reactions showed that he is not really sure about it. The question about
    NASA’s mission is the most important one.

    I am only a foreigner, but I have been observed NASA activities for 40 years now,
    and I share my impression with the senator Cruz that NASA has loosed
    its mission, which shall be only unmanned and manned exploration of
    space itself. NASA shall skip it’s aeronautical part (and leave it to
    FAA or howeve fits to it) and leave also Earth science to other governmental agencies, which are specialized in these sciences as NOAA and others.

    All the other stiff misguide and devide NASA from its priory mission.

  • Matt

    I would support it if the additonal money would result in real deep space mission using/based on SLS and Orion.

  • So you support a twenty year $50 billion dollar expendable launch vehicle development effort just to launch a $5 billion dollar deep space Europa mission in 2025. Sure. Uh-huh.

    Hint : there are not going to be any deep space missions, manned or unmanned, using SLS. There just isn’t the money.

  • Do they? I think understanding the weather ought to be a broad enough mandate for anyone. Check out their homepage: “The purpose of NASA’s Earth science program is to develop a scientific
    understanding of Earth’s system and its response to natural or
    human-induced changes, and to improve prediction of climate, weather,
    and natural hazards.”

    What is climate? time averages of weather
    What are natural hazards? peculiar weather events

    What am I missing? At least you’ve moved from the indefensible (bashing NOAA) to the much more pragmatic argument that aligning the work to the mission is time consuming and expensive in a large bureaucracy. Thanks!

  • Matt

    “What am I missing?”: Earthquakes… 🙂

  • Matt

    Not my money. 🙂 No, to be honest, background of my comment is: I would like to see that NASA is going to concentrate on that objective, which shall be its single mission: unmanned and manned exploration of space. NASA shall skip Earth science and aeronautics. If there will be a cheaper alternative to SLS it would be fine.

  • Americans are seriously asking why the hell is NASA spending that much money and that much time developing obsolete technology again just so a couple of civil servants can take a short joyride beyond earth orbit. We are talking 20 years and $50 billion dollars, for what? This is insanity and delusion to the extreme. What we need to be doing is taking bets on when and how this insanity will finally end.

    And please don’t go jobs equals technology. That’s nonsense.

  • Matt

    Yes, the question should be asked and finally decided. If there is a positive decision by American people to sustain manned space flight then a stringent plan for next decades has to developed. The target can be only Mars due its scientific value for potential life. I see also ORION and SLS as misconcepted vehicles and I am not happy with it, but both seem to be realized nearly until completion. What is the best what can be done with the developed hardware? Or do yo think it is better to trow it away?

  • Throwing away the SLS is what they plan on doing with it, about 10 minutes after launch. And American no longer has decades to throw away not getting this done.

  • Douglas Messier

    Earth science is about understanding how the entire Earth works. Weather and long-term forecasting is just part of it.

    NOAA has had significant difficulties with their next generation weather satellite. And it’s a legitimate questions whether they could handle more responsibilities. It’s not bashing them to point that out.

  • Douglas Messier

    It looks like Sen. Cruz will have little time to run the subcommittee for at least the next year or so. He’s running for president.

  • windbourne

    Seems like anybody with an R behind their name is running.
    And few of them want to put America first, just their party.
    I am curious about what Jeb will do.
    I like the fact that he would rather solve the illegal issue with a compromise then to continue this BS that is going on.
    In addition, he likes balanced budgets.

    Now to find out which ones will put space and science first.

  • windbourne

    Matt, you have indicated over and over that you are eastern european. Now, you try to sound like an American.
    Please make up your mind, or are you with putin’s astroturfers?

  • Matt

    I surprized that was not able to determine my origin (nationwise) up to now even after that long time that I have been written comments in this blog.