US: The US Military’s GPS satellites also include sensors for the Nuclear Detonation Detection System that watches the world for nuclear explosions. In the process, it collects mounds of environmental data which, in the hands of climate scientists, could add greatly to our understanding of global warming, said Professor Daniel N. Baker, Director of the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, University of Colorado, Boulder.
The non-navigational data, which is designed to observe visible light, high-frequency radio waves, x-rays, and gamma rays, is controlled by national security agencies and treated as classified, even though it isn’t and even though there is no compelling national security reason to do so.
The history of the GPS system shows the impact satellite data can have on commercial and scientific progress. Since it was first made publicly available in the 1980s, GPS has revolutionised industries from telecommunications to agriculture. Estimates place its economic value in the tens to hundreds of billions of dollars each year. And that is not counting its impact on everyday activities like hiking, boating and golf.
It would also allow scientists and engineers at national laboratories like Los Alamos, Sandia and Lawrence Livermore to greatly expand their research on climate change and other critical topics. While some scientists can already get access to the data, current restrictions mean they can’t easily share it. Making the data truly public would allow full peer review of their findings, leading to higher-quality research.
Source: The New York Times