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NASA Slashing Observations of Earth 358

Posted by kdawson
from the blue-marble dept.
mattnyc99 points us to a new report by the National Research Council warning that, by 2010, the number of NASA's Earth-observing missions will drop dramatically, and the number of operating sensors and instruments on NASA spacecraft will decrease by 40 percent. The report says, "The United States' extraordinary foundation of global observations is at great risk." Popular Mechanics asks an MIT professor what it all means. From these accounts it is clear that the Bush administration's priorities on a Mars mission and a moon base are partly to blame for the de-emphasizing of earth science. Neither article quite says that some responsibility must fall to the administration's footdragging on global warming.
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NASA Slashing Observations of Earth

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  • I wonder... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @12:24AM (#17641576)
    They keep telling us that there are all these other countries out there -- has anyone proposed that some of the others could possibly do this, since it's so, y'know, important? Neither article quite says that, either.
    • Hopefully ESA...since the EU if counted as a block has the biggest GDP in the world, I'd expect stuff to get more stuff carried out and led by the EU finally.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      They keep telling us that there are all these other countries out there -- has anyone proposed that some of the others could possibly do this, since it's so, y'know, important? Neither article quite says that, either.

      I would rather have other countries show us how it's done rather than tell us how it should be done, but it seems rather unlikely. If they try and fail, they can get laughed at, but if they tell us to try and we fail, they can laugh at us.
  • by creimer (824291) on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @12:25AM (#17641590) Homepage
    Neither article quite says that some responsibility must fall to the administration's footdragging on global warming.

    Someone should whisper in the Bush Administration's ear (located in the rear underneath the belt) that the Iranians are behind global warming. That should get funding for the earth sciences in the right direction.
  • nice troll, smitty (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Gothmolly (148874) on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @12:28AM (#17641610)
    Neither article quite says that some responsibility must fall to the administration's footdragging on global warming.
    Can we mark a submission, as -1, Unnecessary Trolling?
    • > > Neither article quite says that some responsibility must fall to the administration's footdragging on global warming.

      > Can we mark a submission, as -1, Unnecessary Trolling?

      Unfortunately, it's hard for reasonable people to avoid considering the proposition.

      This is the administration that forbade the tour guides at the Grand Canyon from mentioning how old is is, lest they offend creationists.

      Personally I think the Moon/Mars mission decision was an attempt to construct a legacy. But like I said,
    • The fact that the number of Earth-observing missions will drop is interesting. The fact that the submitter sees some wierd link between that and the global warming bandwagon is not.

      Instead of using the logic of "10 million lemmings must be right", global warming advocates would do well in looking at the underlying scientific knowledge instead. The measurements are scientific and wholly honest for the most part, but the popular interpretations are not scientific at all, and should be ignored by those who v
      • by Jeppe Salvesen (101622) on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @03:33AM (#17642936)
        Oh yeah?

        Here's something for ya: Empirical evidence. You know, we have a good record of atmospheric composition and temperatures for the past 50-60-70 years.

        Somebody tested various models on historical data. You know where you started, you know what happened, and you know the outcome.

        Good enough for you?

        They tried it [bbc.co.uk]. More here [ucsd.edu].

        If you take this data and combine it with a decade of earlier results, the debate about whether or not there is a global warming signal here and now is over at least for rational people.


        But, feel free to post any good rebuttals on this study if you indeed know more than I do.
  • Perfect (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Dr. Eggman (932300) on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @12:32AM (#17641650)
    Nasa creates a market need, market blooms, Nasa leaves market, commercial space companies fulfil market need, commercial space companies bloom. 2010 maybe cutting it a little close, I would rather see a gradual transfer out, but either way I foresee mutual benefit.
    • Re:Perfect (Score:5, Funny)

      by Tablizer (95088) on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @01:10AM (#17642004) Homepage Journal
      Nasa creates a market need, market blooms, Nasa leaves market, commercial space companies fulfil market need

      Exxon is launching Lobbysat II and Bogusat III to prove that there is no global warming. They shaved costs by not including any sensors nor cameras.
             
      • Oh, if only Lobbysat II could be used to launch lobbyists into orbit!

        It's not such a crazy idea. They could be highly useful, as meteor shields, or shuttle tiles, or in fact any application that involves a hard vacuum or extreme temperatures.

    • The cynic in me say this is the grand plan of NASA:-

      1) Struggle to fly the shuttle with ever reducing $$$$ from Congress
      2) Decide on grand plan "Lets go to MARS!"
      3) Pull out of Earth Orbital work
      4) Let Commercial Companies fund the costs of a Shuttle Replacement
      5) Wait until 4) is working. Continue to spend $$$ On Mars Mission
      6) "Obtain" all commercially viable space vehicles under the guise of National Security
      "Those pesky terrorists might crash this space plane into the White House"
      7
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @12:38AM (#17641718)
    i've been a slashdot fan since 1997. seems like the submissions, and comments, are getting further and further left. wow. seems like there's no centrists any more. or maybe all the conservatives have moved on to other sites. Or maybe they just all got sucked into the big-oil conspiracy vortex.

    Not to mention troll bait (but just the fact that certain words ARE troll bait should tell you something) but global warming is just one of them. why is this a Michael Crichton (the Harvard-educated scientist who wrote Coma, Jurassic Park and A State Of Fear, among other things) vs Al Gore (inventor of the Internet) battle? If we're scientists, where is our skepticism? For that matter, where are our manners? Are we unwilling to admit that we might be incorrect?

    (..Wait, I forgot. Sorry. Please don't revoke my geek card.)

    What I really don't understand is why all the surprisingly non-geek-oriented but heavily political stories are appearing on Slashdot.org. Anyway, back to finishing my TPS reports..
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Facts have a liberal bias.
      • Except when it comes to things like economics!
      • It isn't that Liberals are ignorant.
        It's just that they know so much that isn't so. - Ronald Reagan
      • "Facts have a liberal bias"

        That's obviously untrue, and must not go unchallenged.

        Facts have no bias. You are perhaps talking about interpretation of the facts - and people will argue about that forever. It is impossible to argue against a fact.

        You might be a believer of "Cultural truth" too - the idea that what is generally believed in a culture is true. That Papua New Guineans believe in many gods is at odds with the beliefs of other cultures. Clearly, two contradicting beliefs must leave at least one wron
      • Facts do not have a liberal bias.

        But the right does currently appear to be particularly well endowed with people who have a bias against the facts.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      I'd like to start by saying that these stories, when posted with summaries like the one above, should be moderated flamebait, or perhaps tagged flamewar for those with tagging abilities.

      i've been a slashdot fan since 1997. seems like the submissions, and comments, are getting further and further left.

      I've noticed a general shift to the right across society as a whole. Political groups that used to be happy to be seen as left wing are now trying to appear centrist and shrug off the "liberal" tag while grou

    • by robsimmon (462689) on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @01:16AM (#17642044)
      Michael Crichton is an MD, not a scientist, and especially not a climate scientist.
      • Scientist:
        an expert in science, esp. one of the physical or natural sciences. [1]

        Medical Doctor:
        "Medicine is a branch of health science..." [2]

        Hence, Crichton is a scientist.

        1. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/scientist [reference.com]
        2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medicine [wikipedia.org]
      • by Aglassis (10161) on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @02:24AM (#17642560)
        Are we comparing the qualifications in climate science of Michael Crichton with Al Gore?

        This should be hilarious. The total sum of Al Gore's formal education consists in getting a Bachelor of Arts degree in government from Harvard (and not completing a law degree at Vanderbilt). Al Gore is even less qualified to talk about climate science than Michael Crichton (who at least has had formal training in experimental analysis while getting a medical degree at Harvard).

        Neither of them has a degree in the physical sciences and nothing they say should be taken as knowledge interpreted by a scientist. I don't care how far you want to twist it, a MD and a BA in government do not make you even remotely qualified to discuss climate change. Why the world has focused on these unqualified 'spokesmen' to be cheerleaders for their differing sides of the global warming debate is beyond me.
        • by coaxial (28297)
          Now now. Al Gore has been a vocal advocate on the environement for almost 30 years now. He's led government investigations and authored legislation. And oh yeah. He wrote two fucking highly regarded (by the relevant SCIENCE community no less) and researched books on the subject.

          Crichton on the other hand has written a very enjoyable, and equally fanciful, books about cloning dinosaurs, among other things. His book, State of Fear, was roundly criticised by the scientific community of being full of half-
        • by misanthrope101 (253915) on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @08:20AM (#17644354)
          All true. The difference is that Al Gore is not claiming to be an expert. Gore is pointing to, and deferring to, the mountain of evidence, along with the consensus of the climatological scientific community, the community that was persuaded by the very evidence he is pointing to. Gore is acting as a loud, strident, eloquent, persistent voice for the scientists, whereas Crichton is telling you that he's smarter than all the scientists. Al Gore is trying to get us to hear what science is saying, while Crichton is saying "nah, it's all hooey." One of these positions involves humility and knowing one's limitations, and one does not.
      • by j-pimp (177072)

        Michael Crichton is an MD, not a scientist, and especially not a climate scientist.

        And he didn't invent the internet either!

    • by Dr. Cody (554864)
      Anonymous Coward, if there's one user here who's stuck with Slashdot through thick and thing, it's you. Who could forget your hot grits? Your gayniggers? Your table-breaking HTML?

      All and all, I'd just like to send a shout-out from all of us, to you. /. 3 AC
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Chacham (981)
      i've been a slashdot fan since 1997. seems like the submissions, and comments, are getting further and further left.

      Teenagers have flocked to the Internet because it is assumed that they can mask their immaturity in a seemingly objective arena. Slashdot, being a techy site, and therefore supposedly even more objective, attracts a large amount of adolescents.

      Growing up in a family where parents of the sixties refuse to raise their kids properly, the parents selfish wants and needs create a socialistic attitu
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        That's got to be the most nauseating ad hominem attack on progressive thought that I have seen so far on Slashdot.
    • by GreggBz (777373)
      Gore said "I took the initiative in creating the internet." during that interview with CNN. I'm guessing he meant to add "bill" to the end of that sentence, as he was kind of rambling. Bill being a reference to this one. [wikipedia.org]

      If you retain this kernel of knowledge, I'll promise to not make so much fun of George W Bush.
    • by misanthrope101 (253915) on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @04:03AM (#17643082)
      It's interesting that you consider global warming to be a "liberal" issue, since anthropocentric global warming is the consensus of the entire climatalogical community. And Al Gore didn't claim [snopes.com] that he invented the internet. Both the idea that global warming has been politicized, and the story about Gore claiming to have invented the internet, are entirely partisan, fictitious lies and distortions foisted on you by one political movement. Way to be alert to being politically snookered.

      And Michael Crichton's books, though they sell well, are not scientifically valid. That is pretty well-known. Medical Doctors, even Harvard MDs, are not automatic authorities on every scientific subject on the planet. Crichton is not a climatologist, and I'm fairly sure you were aware of that seemingly obvious fact. Would you take your local proctologist's word about quantum mechanics? Is your dermatologist a reliable authority on string theory?

      When it comes to climatology, you might want to look at what the climatologists have been saying--and they've been saying for decades that humans are contributing significantly to global warming. Are you saying that all the climatologists are wrong about climatology, but Michael Crichton, Harvard M.D., really set the record straight in his fictional novel?

      • by N8F8 (4562)
        Yeah, and I get tired of the BS predictions from pseudo scientists who don't really have any idea what the net impact of pollution is going to be. I've been hearing knee jerk predictions for two decades. Add to that the asinine concept that humans could possibly do anything "bad for the planet" since we know for a FACT that at least 2-3 times 99.9% of all life has been wiped out before and didn't have any trouble adapting and thriving eventually.

        You want a better environment? Talk those GREENIE WEENIES into

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          Yes, the planet will be fine. What they're referrering to is the life on the planet. My apologies for assuming that was obvious.

          Sadly, yes, science has been wrong in the past. It will no doubt be wrong again. It's a human endeavor, limited by the nature of our perception, instruments, data, mortality, intelligence, and so on. Good luck living without medication, electricity, airplanes, sanitation, and all those other things that this undependable, ideology-laden worldview has saddled us with. If o

      • Truly revolutionary ideas comes out of new ideas, that challenge the incumbent ideas. While scientific research has gotten much more complicated, making it harder to enter without the education required of a PhD, the PhD worship is a little twisted.

        There was a time that people we're allowed to spout out ideas that the Church opposed, and only the Church could approve ideas, and only the Church chose who was in the Church. This period of time is generally considered to have been bad for human advancement a
    • by 1u3hr (530656) on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @04:08AM (#17643108)
      i've been a slashdot fan since 1997. seems like the submissions, and comments, are getting further and further left. ,

      How strange. Seems the opposite to me.

      Every story that mentions India, for instance, evinces a swarm of racist and jingoistic posts, many modded "insightful". Every article mentioning the word "evolution" gets hundreds of posts advocating creationism. Every article mentioning guns draws a bunch of gun rights advocates.

      Perhaps the anonymous poster means there's more criticism of GW Bush. Well, there's more to criticise. Regardless of your political leanings, the one thing that unites most commentators is that GWB has royally fucked up everything he's touched.

    • Frankly, I don't see how a story about NASA giving earth sciences lower priority has any kind of political bias. Slashdotters' interest in this story is due to the current administration's backwards attitude towards science, rather than any particular conservative vs. liberal antagonism. I seriously doubt that you could find more than a few American scientists with a positive view of the federal government's treatment of science since 2001, unless they are political appointees.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      There are, regularly, highly moderated posts which
      o advocate individual responsibility for individual actions
      o support government limited to its Constitutional powers
      o take a positive view of legal firearms ownership
      o want a strong national defense
      o insist on the rule of law
      and many other points of view which have generally been considered conservative.

      It's the meaning of the word "conservative" that has drifted.

      >What I really don't understand is why all the surprisingly non-geek-oriented but heavily pol
    • by Petrushka (815171)

      I've seen hundreds, nay thousands, of far, far, far right-wing loonies on Slashdot.

      I've seen -- what, maybe half a dozen? -- communists, that is to say people advocating the abolition of the nuclear family and of personal property,* and absolute state centralisation of absolutely everything.

      Now, that's not a thorough argument, but if you'll excuse me for glossing over steps 3 to 59 for the sake of space, I reckon Slashdot is pretty centrist. I think your sense of a changing position is mainly due to a Gre

  • but if you are going to establish a moon base, do you need to keep putting up satellites, or can you just use the moon base to monitor the Earth?

    Sure, sure, sure, I know they will use it to monitor US citizens, but it could also be used to monitor the globe.

    When you buy a new car, you don't buy spare tires at the same time?
  • will now fall under the domain of the Office of Homeland Security. So don't worry, it's not like we're not watching the Earth anymore.
  • by kad77 (805601) on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @12:53AM (#17641850)
    "Neither article quite says that some responsibility must fall to the administration's footdragging on global warming."

    Must editorial opinions mark every bit of tech news here on Slashdot? Maybe Andrew Rosenthal should be granted an editorial position here at /. for balance...
  • Yay! (Score:2, Funny)

    by RealGrouchy (943109)
    Less government observation of its people?

    Libertarians, rejoice!

    - RG>
    • It amazes me that so many allegedly "educated" people have fallen so quickly and so hard for a fraudulent fabrication of such laughable proportions. The very idea that a gigantic ball of rock happens to orbit our planet, showing itself in neat, four-week cycles -- with the same side facing us all the time -- is ludicrous. Furthermore, it is an insult to common sense and a damnable affront to intellectual honesty and integrity. That people actually believe it is evidence that the liberals have wrested the la
  • Slashdoublespeak (Score:5, Informative)

    by Keebler71 (520908) on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @01:11AM (#17642016) Journal
    First, the NASA science budget is increasing [nasa.gov], not decreasing as the article would make you think... it just isn't increasing as fast it had been promised.

    Second, the NASA budget is essentially fixed. There are 4 directorates within NASA:

    • Aeronautics (conventional aircraft-related research)
    • Science (satellites and probes)
    • Space Operations (funding to maintain shuttle and station)
    • Exploration
      • COTS (Funding commercial space to provide space transportation capability (non-exploratory)
      • Constellation (Ares/Orion/LSAM - the vehicles that will both replace shuttle as well as comprise the lunar architecture)
    The problem is that over the next couple years, the Exploration budget starts ramping up as the development costs begin to really add up in advance of a 2014 first (crewed) flight. Meanwhile, until the shuttle is retired in 2010, the SOMD budget must remain relatively constant since the cost of operating the shuttle fleet doesn't dip until its retirement. So what are your choices?
    • A) Cut shuttle off early and leave ISS unfinished and have an 6-7 gap in manned space flight?
    • B) Delay Exploration development until the shuttle is retired (similar gap in manned space flight since you are just pushing development to the right)?
    • C) Or do you delay science missions for only a few years until NASA is "over the hump years" (2008-2010) in which they are trying to maintain old vehicles and develop new ones?

    If you ask me - the obvious solution is:

    D) Increase NASA funding to maintain all of the above until Ares/Orion enters an operations phase.

    Keep in mind - the NASA budget is about half of one percent of the federal budget...

    Note: you can mock the lunar outpost and Mars missions all you want - but those costs aren't even in the budget yet (and won't be for some 10 years or more) and are not driving this "problem" despite the misleading claims in the article.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by robsimmon (462689)

      First, the NASA science budget is increasing, not decreasing as the article would make you think... it just isn't increasing as fast it had been promised.
      You do realize the 2007 NASA budget was never passed?
    • Slash 0.5% of the defense budget (for example cut it on nuclear weapon research or capability) and give it to the Nasa Budget. I recon that would be a nice nifty increase for the Nasa budget while not really a loss for the defense capability of the US (seeing that it has a budget which is roughly on the order of half of the world spending on military if you are to believe wiki).
      • by khallow (566160)
        That's a bad place to slash it. If perhaps even when the US gets involved in a significant nuclear war, the US's confidence in its nuclear weaponry could mean a big difference in how many nuclear weapons are used. For example, if there's a significant chance of failure, it's likely that two or more nukes would be used at a time. Numbers after all provide adequate compensation for unreliability. That's one of the reasons why the US and USSR arsenals got so big during the Cold War.
        • Do you realize that in the probability that an nuclear exchange occurs between two nuclear nation, then both will either go totally out (aka carpet bomb with nuclear bomb) to avoid nuclear a riposte , or not do any nuclear bombing at all to begin with ? There is a good reason why MAD means Mutual Assured Destruction. Currently the capacity is to destroy each other (Russia/US) many time over. Instead of being able to destroy 3.5 time over, how about destroy only 3.3 time over ? Especially if the old bomb are
  • by MSTCrow5429 (642744) on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @01:27AM (#17642142)
    "Neither article quite says that some responsibility must fall to the administration's footdragging on global warming."

    Inappropriate ideological sniping. That is a stated opinion on a highly disputed theory among experts in the field, not science.

  • Its clear? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by nwbvt (768631) on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @02:28AM (#17642582)

    "From these accounts it is clear that the Bush administration's priorities on a Mars mission and a moon base are partly to blame for the de-emphasizing of earth science. Neither article quite says that some responsibility must fall to the administration's footdragging on global warming."

    A quick glance reveals that one article never mentions Bush by name, the other only in that they are calling for more emphasis on global warming research and that real scientists (not /. scientist wannabes) are happy they really are funding the Mars missions.

    What is this, really? The New York Times (not exactly known to have a major conservative slant) doesn't bash Bush so instead the /. article has to insert in a completely unsupported accusation?

    • by Atario (673917)

      The New York Times (not exactly known to have a major conservative slant) doesn't bash Bush so instead the /. article has to insert in a completely unsupported accusation?

      Someone has to call a spade a spade. If not a major newspaper, then Slashdot will have to do. (And if you're unaware of the Bush administration's general hostility to science in general [commondreams.org], you're not paying attention.)

      • by khallow (566160)
        The point is that the anti-science spin isn't supported by the news stories even if it is correct.
  • NASA is leaving earth science to the commercial sector. It is more then capable in doing so. Commercial Sector is launching satellites all the time.

    And remember people, NASA stands for National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Their mandate is to explore the solar system. Building a moon base will benefit mankind allot. Near Zero G experiments to the feasibility of humans surviving on Mars for long periods of time. And reaching mars will enable us to begin a terraforming process or at very least,
  • With the possibility that NASA will embrace the metric system, they could find this as an excuse to redeploy every sensor that previously flew. Screw spreadsheet conversions, we want real data, just to be sure.

    Sarcasm aside, NASA stopped being relevant years ago, so there should not be any surprise to hear that various information gathering projects/systems are soon to be extinct.

    Naturally, when NASA needs a cash infusion, it cries to the public, Jane and John Doe - don't forget how many mission manif
  • First they laugh at it Then they ignore it... You know the rest :-(
  • Bush-bashing (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Chardish (529780)
    I'm really tired of kdawson's stories always blaming Bush for everything he disagrees with in American government. This isn't simply because I disagree with his politics; it is foolish and irresponsible to blame one person (either individually, or by using the surrogate term "administration") for the problems of a government of hundreds of movers and shakers. Keep the partisan bull-droppings off of Slashdot, and especially out of stories about politically neutral topics like space.

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