Recommendation 3.

The NASA Earth Science Enterprise should continue to play an active role in the acquisition and analysis of systematic measurements for climate research as well as in the provision of new technology for NPOESS.

Through its funding of climate research and its investments in technology, NASA can significantly enhance the climate research and monitoring capabilities of NPOESS and other operational missions. Activities could include the flight of complementary sensors and support for sensor characterization, as well as sensor calibration and data product validation, research and analysis, data reprocessing, and development of new technology.

The committee proposes the following specific actions to achieve this recommendation:

  • NASA/ESE should develop specific technology programs aimed at the development of sustainable instrumentation for NPOESS.

    Operational missions have stringent cost (for both development and operations) and longevity requirements, whereas the development of research instrumentation often faces fewer such constraints (especially in the short-term technology-driven missions in NASA/ESE's Earth Probes program). This discrepancy inhibits commitment by an operational agency to incorporate new technology into its programs. NASA should allocate some of its technology investments specifically to incentives designed to encourage the transition of technology to operational status, such as lowering the costs and improving the reliability and performance of candidate sensors. This might also include innovative methods for ensuring data continuity and sensor calibration. Such an approach can work effectively only if NASA's ESE and the NPOESS IPO cooperate at all stages of the process.

  • NASA/ESE should ensure that systematic measurements that are integrated into operational systems continue to meet science requirements.

    Although NASA/ESE intends to shift long-term responsibility for systematic measurements to operational programs, this may require that NASA/ESE continue to allocate resources to these measurements. Operational measurements may need enhanced capability, sensors may require more extensive calibration, and data will need to be analyzed and reprocessed. Operational programs may provide stable orbiting platforms, but not necessarily all of the infrastructure required to accomplish climate research and monitoring.

  • NASA/ESE should continue satellite missions for many measurements that are critical for climate research and monitoring.

    Because of conflicting requirements, some of the measurements required for climate research may not be incorporated into operational programs such as NPOESS. For example, some may not be deemed critical for short-term forecasts, or they may simply be too costly. NASA/ESE should continue such critical measurements, while pursuing new technologies or approaches that may reduce the costs of such observations. It is unrealistic to expect that all of NASA/ESE's systematic measurement requirements can be met by NPOESS.

Recommendation 4.

Joint research and operational opportunities such as the NPOESS Preparatory Project (NPP) should become a permanent part of the U.S. Earth observing remote sensing strategy.

The Operational Satellite Improvement Program (OSIP) was a joint activity between NASA and NOAA to improve short-term weather forecasting. A similar program in the area of climate research could help to fill the serious gap that now exists between the NASA/ESE research missions and the operational missions such as NPOESS. Operational missions tend to be conservative, valuing highly reliable and proven sensor designs as well as sensors that are inexpensive to operate. Research missions often value cutting-edge technology and favor new designs and new scientific approaches. A joint program could buffer the rapidly changing mix of science and technology emerging from NASA with the more constant requirements and capabilities of operational programs.

The committee proposes the following specific actions to achieve this recommendation:

  • The NPP concept should be made a permanent part of the U.S. climate observing strategy as a joint NASA-IPO activity.

    A permanent R&D testbed evolved from NPP would provide a unique opportunity to infuse research requirements and innovative technology into NPOESS without disrupting the operational requirements. In much the way that Nimbus provided a regular series of satellite platforms, a permanent series of NPP-style platforms could fly

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