Washington DC, 02 May 2007: As U.S. policy makers prepare for hearings later this week on space-science and climate-change research, the US’s general science society has warned that budget cuts are threatening U.S. satellites essential for weather forecasting, hurricane warning, studies of global climate change and more.
Cutbacks and reallocations within the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are “already causing harm” to Earth-observing satellites, and “will become rapidly worse unless the Congress and the Administration take prompt action to reverse the recent trends,” the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) cautioned.
“The network of satellites upon which the United States and the world have relied for indispensable observations of Earth from space is in jeopardy,” the AAAS Board of Directors concluded in a consensus statement. “Declines will result in major gaps in the continuity and quality of the data gathered about the Earth from space.”
This week’s AAAS Board statement reaffirms an earlier analysis by the National Research Council, which concluded that U.S. global observations are “at great risk,” while the next generation of U.S. Earth-observing satellites are “generally less capable” than their current counterparts.
AAAS joined the NRC in calling for the restoration of key NOAA satellites; acceleration of NASA’s current launch schedule to “shrink data gaps;” and support for the 17 highest-priority new Earth-observation missions for the 2010-2020 time period. Achieving these goals will require returning NASA’s Earth-science budget to its 1998-2000 level and stabilizing the budget of NOAA’s National Environmental Satellite Data and Information Service at a level only slightly higher than the 2007 amount, adjusted for inflation, AAAS said.