A new report from the National Research Council says that budget shortfalls, along with other factors, have led to a rapid decline in the nation’s earth-observing system and satellites.
“The projected loss of observing capability will have profound consequences on science and society, from weather forecasting to responding to natural hazards,” said Dennis Hartmann, professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington, Seattle, and chair of the committee that wrote the report. “Our ability to measure and understand changes in Earth’s climate and life support systems will also degrade.”
The report comes five years after a similar report. The new report finds that although NASA responded aggressively to counteract the problem, the necessary budget was never reached. The required funding would have to be approved by Congress.
Other problems contributed to the issue as well, such as changes in program scope and the lack of a highly reliable and affordable launch capability.
NASA has managed to fund and launch some of its previously planned missions. And following recommendations in the previous report, the agency has made closer ties with international groups to pool resources.
The conclusion of the report is that, in the near future, the budget for NASA’s earth science program is not adequate to meet important and immediate national needs. So, the report recommends developing a more cost-constrained approach, and creating a team of scientists and engineers to provide advice on the execution of missions.
On a related note, NOAA’s satellite earth observation program is also facing problems of budget shortfalls and cost overruns.
Image Credits: NASA Earth Observatory