space program and reinforce or enhance the contributions of civil space activities to broader national objectives.


Recommendation 2. NASA and NOAA should lead the formation of an international satellite-observing architecture capable of monitoring global climate change and its consequences and support the research needed to interpret and understand the data in time for meaningful policy decisions.

The committee recognizes the important role in climate change studies that was assigned to the NPOESS and that is now in question, and the committee also concurs with the recommendations in the NRC report Earth Science and Applications from Space: National Imperatives for the Next Decade and Beyond calling for a compelling program of Earth-monitoring space systems. Therefore, the committee recommends that

  1. NASA and NOAA, working in concert with the private sector, academe, the public, and international partners, should reverse the deterioration of the U.S. space infrastructure for observing and understanding the climate of Earth and the human influence on it.

  2. NASA and NOAA, in consultation with the scientific community, should develop and implement a plan for achieving and sustaining global Earth observations. This plan should recognize the complexity of differing agency roles, responsibilities, and capabilities, as well as the lessons from past government efforts.

  3. NASA and NOAA should work with the international community to develop an integrated database for sensor information collected by all Earth-monitoring satellites so that researchers and decision makers have uninhibited access to this important information. This is an opportunity for the United States to demonstrate technical leadership in an area of international interest.

  4. NASA and NOAA should aggressively pursue technology development that supports high-priority Earth observation missions and foster innovative approaches to meeting future space system needs.

  5. NASA and NOAA should plan for transitions to continue demonstrably useful research observations on a sustained, or operational, basis.


Scientific inquiry and advancement of knowledge are fundamental to a nation’s health: the results inform and excite the public, stimulate technology development, create an interest in learning, and generally improve the capacity of the nation to compete and to lead. A nation that asks questions about the universe and wants to learn is a richer nation.

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