It is time to stop quivering in our boots in pointless fear of the future and just roll up our sleeves and build it.
- Ray Pierrehumbert

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Earth Observation COVR-up

Just thought I'd do my bit to cheer on DeSmog's efforts to call attention to the ludicrous defunding of NASA's earth observation programs. In particular, they assert that a valuable instrument, officially called DSCOVR, and in some circles dismissively called "GoreSat" has been sitting in cold storage for several years, and the US has even refused to let other nations launch it on their own dime.

Look, I suppose I don't get a lot of knee-jerk conservatives here, but you don't automatically have to disagree with everything your opponent says. If Osama says that two and two make four that doesn't make it five, okay?

Al Gore thinks we should collect more data, to see if climate theory is valid. Does that mean, if you disagree with Al Gore, you should avoid collecting data? I mean, this whole "GoreSat" nomenclature shows a level of intellectual maturity you wouldn't leave unchallenged if it came from an eleven-year-old.

Update 9/13: Stoat argues, conversely, that just because Gore likes it doesn't mean it's a good idea. That's fair as far as it goes.

If the French are really willing to launch it, it seems likely that there is some demand for the information. Direct measurement of albedo seems useful enough alone.

Sometimes a scalar series can be an important constraint.

I'm inclined to think that the sunk costs should win the day unless it's a spectacularly bad idea, in which case we should be asking why such a very bad idea got funded in the first place.

The real issue is at least probably the effective abandonment of earth observation as a NASA priority.

One might ask, in turn, why it is the US's responsibiltiy to do everything in this regard. In fact, though, if the French are willing to launch it, maybe they'll be willing to maintain it if we ask.

Something really does seem odd about this. I'm willing to be convinced that the consequence of the oddity is that the mission should be scrubbed, and perhaps DeSmog aren't the ones to figure this out, but I'd really like to hear the whole story.


bigcitylib said...

Up here in Canada, Env. Minister John Baird justified cutting a number of department research budgets with the justification that "the science was in and it was time to act". Of course, this is a conservative government and their actions didn't amount to a hill of beans. The cuts, however, did.

mz said...

Can the same data not be easily combined from multiple geostationary weathersats?

I mean, the article doesn't discuss if the instrument would really bring anything new and whether it would be more cost effective than some other means of obtaining the data.

I'm just asking, and trying to encourage rational and factual discussion about this.

Hank Roberts said...

> easily combined from multiple
> geostationary

Not simple. Google
+albedo +triana

For example, this is a sketch of a methodology for doing just what you suggest, as part of the testing and validation of the spacecraft:

___________ excerpt ________
• Create realistic datasets from MODIS and SeaWifs
a) Initially select only those pixels satisfying the Triana angular constraints; apply
CERES cloud algorithm to determine "true" cloud properties
b) Develop full-fledged dataset by "moving" and"turning" raw MODIS pixels after analysis with CERES cloud algorithm;
- apply relevant BRDF models to compute reflectances for SZA = 0° and retain CERES cloud info for each pixel
- move pixels to desired SZA using directional models based on CERES and theory
- turn albedo into Triana reflectance using the BRDFs
c) Data from both (b) and (c) are then convolved to simulate Triana pixel size so that reflectance and "true" cloud information for each "Triana" pixel are known ...

EliRabett said...

With Triana you got the whole lit face of the Earth in real time. However, this is old news

Michael Tobis said...

Thanks for the background info, Eli.

I don't feel I've heard the whole story, and there is confirmation that the thing was actually called "GoreSat" as if that amounted to some justification for mothballing it.

DeSmog claims something new to em, that the French volunteered to pay for the launch, leaving the net additional expenditure required for the project at, well, zero.

If they'd like to rake some more muck, more power to them, I say.

Sparrow (in the coal mine) said...

leaving the net additional expenditure required for the project at, well, zero.

Ground station monitoring costs can be significant. You need to know what those are and if anyone has offered to pay for it.

EliRabett said...

The cost is still significant. NASA hates when satellites work past their mission design lifetime because the costs of managing the thing in space is huge. I have know of several that NASA will cheerfully gift to any organization/university that would cover the expense of operating the thing. Then, of course, you have the data morgue. . .