Donald Trump’s first budget proposal terminates three NASA Earth science missions now under development: Orbiting Carbon Observatory – 3 (OCO-3), Climate Absolute Radiance and Refractivity Observatory (CLARREO) Pathfinder, and the Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, ocean Ecosystem (PACE).
It also “terminates” the “Earth-viewing instruments” on the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) spacecraft, a joint NASA-NOAA project that monitors the Earth, the solar wind and space weather from a location 1 million miles from Earth.
The table below shows the instruments aboard the DSCOVR, which was launched two years ago.
“NOAA will operate DSCOVR from its NOAA Satellite Operations Facility in Suitland, Maryland and distribute the data to its users and partner agencies,” according to a NOAA fact sheet. “NOAA will process the space weather data, providing products and forecasts through the NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder, Colorado, and archive the data at the NOAA National Geophysical Data Center in Boulder, Colorado. NASA is responsible for processing the Earth sensor data.”
DSCOVR was launched in February 2015 after a long development period. Al Gore proposed the satellite — originally named Triana — in 1998. Congressional Republicans dubbed the spacecraft “Goresat” and questioned its scientific value. A subsequent review by the National Academy of Sciences found the project to be “strong and scientifically vital.”
The George W. Bush Administration removed the $100 million spacecraft from the space shuttle manifest and placed it in storage in 2001. DSCOVR was removed from storage in November 2008 and refurbished for launch.
The OCO-3 mission involves the installation of a spare carbon dioxide monitoring instrument from the stand-alone OCO-2 satellite on to the exterior of the International Space Station. It would be launched aboard a cargo ship headed for the station.
“The OCO-3 instrument “consists of three high resolution grating spectrometers which collect space-based measurements of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) with the precision, resolution, and coverage needed to assess the spatial and temporal variability of CO2 over an annual cycle,” according to NASA’s website. “After launch and docking with the International Space Station, the OCO-3 instrument will be installed on the ISS Japanese Experiment Module- Exposed Facility (JEM-EF) where it will be operating for the duration of the mission.”
CLARREO Pathfinder is another space station mission. It is designed to test instruments that would allow scientists to refine climate modeling on a larger, stand-alone spacecraft.
“The allocated funds support the flight of a Reflected Solar (RS) spectrometer, hosted on the International Space Station (ISS) in the 2020 time frame. The key features of the CLARREO Pathfinder (CPF) mission-integration of CPF payload with the ExPA, slotted on the ExPRESS logistics carrier (ELC-1). The CPF is a Class D mission with 1 year of operations on orbit and 1 year for analysis of acquired data,” according to the agency’s website.
“The foundation of CLARREO is the ability to produce highly accurate climate records to test climate projections in order to improve models and enable sound policy decisions,” the website states. “The CLARREO mission accomplishes this critical objective through accurate SI-traceable decadal observations that are sensitive to many of the key climate parameters such as radiative forcings, climate responses, and feedbacks. Uncertainties in these parameters drives uncertainty in current climate model projections.”
NASA’s PACE mission “will deliver the most comprehensive look at global ocean color measurements in NASA’s history. Not only will PACE monitor the health of our ocean, its science data will expand atmospheric studies by sensing our skies over an exceptionally broad spectrum of wavelengths.”
“Being built and tested at the Goddard Space Flight Center, PACE will expand our knowledge of key climate variables such as aerosol particles and clouds,” according to the space agency. “It will extend NASA’s long-term record of the phytoplankton pigment, chlorophyll, while providing new insights on ocean biodiversity.”