New Mandates Put the Squeeze on NASA Core Earth Science Missions

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SAN FRANCISCO — In an era of flat budgets, the NASA Earth Science Division’s growing role in offering sustained observations of various phenomena including ozone profiles and incoming solar energy is likely to diminish available funding for core missions, said Mike Freilich, head of NASA’s Earth Science Division.

“We were given a $40 million plus-up to begin this job in 2014 and no additional funds beyond that,” Freilich said Dec. 11 at the American Geophysical Union conference here. “So this responsibility will be coming out of the core.” NASA’s 2013 Earth Science budget totaled $1.65 billion.

In its 2014 budget blueprint sent to Congress in April, the White House assigned NASA the task of providing sustained observations of solar irradiance, ozone profiles and Earth’s radiation budget, which previously were the responsibility of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. In addition, the White House directed NASA to work with the U.S. Geological Survey to develop plans for the next two decades of sustained land imaging, carrying on work performed by the Landsat Earth-imaging constellation.

The handoff of those responsibilities was a vote of confidence in NASA and its capabilities, Freilich said, but it will be difficult to carry out “in a budget that is not growing.”

 

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