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03 May 2012: Earth Observation Satellites
Threatened by Budget Shortfalls in U.S.

Budget shortfalls, launch failures, and mission changes have caused a decline in U.S. earth observation satellites over the last five years, a trend that could undermine the nation’s ability to forecast weather and monitor natural disasters and climate change, according to a new report. The report, published by the National Research Council (NRC), said that a lack of satellite-based earth monitoring technologies “will have profound consequences on science and society.” One factor slowing progress is a shortage of reliable medium-class launchers to send satellites into space, the NRC said. The report said that NASA is making up for some of the shortfalls in earth observation systems by increasing sub-orbital missions and jet flights, and by cooperating on missions with other countries that have launched earth observation satellites. “It’s likely our capabilities will decline fairly precipitously at just the time they’re most needed,” Dennis Hartmann, a professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington and chair of the committee that wrote the report, told the New York Times. “If nothing is changed, we’re predicting to be down to 25 percent of our current capabilities by 2020.”

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