GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — The urgency of Earth science and climate studies took the spotlight Friday as Vice President Kamala Harris visited NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. The vice president received a firsthand look at how the nation’s space program studies climate change and provides crucial information to understand our planet’s changes and their impacts on our lives.
The House Science Committee approved an infrastructure bill that provides an additional $173 million to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to accelerate the development and launch of the Space Weather Follow-On Lagrange-1 (SWFO-L1) mission. The spacecraft, scheduled for launch in 2024, will monitor the solar wind and coronal mass ejections from the Earth-sun L-1 Lagrange point.
In its waning days, the Trump Administration released the National Orbital Debris Research and Development Plan, which is designed to guide federal R&D efforts aimed at limiting, tracking, characterizing and remediating debris in Earth orbit.
A bill to reorganize the nation’s response to space weather has passed both houses of Congress and heads to the White House for President Donald Trump’s signature.
The Promoting Research and Observations of Space Weather to Improve the Forecasting of Tomorrow Act (PROSwift) assigns roles to federal departments and establishes an interagency working group to coordinate their activities.
Citing a combination of negligible revenues and negative economic impacts on the economy, an Interior Department advisory committee has recommended that the government not implement fees for the use of data from the Landsat 8 and 9 satellites.
The US government is considering whether to charge for access to two widely used sources of remote-sensing imagery: the Landsat satellites operated by the US Geological Survey (USGS) and an aerial-survey programme run by the Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Officials at the Department of the Interior, which oversees the USGS, have asked a federal advisory committee to explore how putting a price on Landsat data might affect scientists and other users; the panel’s analysis is due later this year. And the USDA is contemplating a plan to institute fees for its data as early as 2019.
Some scientists who work with the data sets fear that changes in access could impair a wide range of research on the environment, conservation, agriculture and public health. “It would be just a huge setback,” says Thomas Loveland, a remote-sensing scientist who recently retired from the USGS in Sioux Falls, South Dakota….
Since the USGS made the data freely available, the rate at which users download it has jumped 100-fold. The images have enabled groundbreaking studies of changes in forests, surface water, and cities, among other topics. Searching Google Scholar for “Landsat” turns up nearly 100,000 papers published since 2008.
A USGS survey of Landsat users released in 2013 found that the free distribution of Landsat imagery generates more than US$2 billion of economic benefit annually — dwarfing the programme’s current annual budget of roughly $80 million. More than half of the nearly 13,500 survey respondents were academics, and the majority lived outside the United States.
Alarmed by efforts of the Trump Administration to control communications out of federal agencies, users have created a number of new alternative Twitter accounts has sprung up to give what they say is the true story about climate change, the environment and other topics.
Employees at the Environmental Protection Agency, the Interior Department, the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have seen directives from the newly minted leadership seeking to limit how they communicate to the public, according to multiple sources.
The moves have reinforced concerns that Trump, a climate change doubter, could seek to sideline scientific research showing that carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels contributes to global warming, as well as the career staffers at the agencies that conduct much of this research. (more…)