Resetting National Priorities: Implications of the NRC Decadal Study on Science Research at NASA Langley
In reaction to recent discussions on climate change, researchers in NASA Langley's Science Directorate (SD), the Systems Engineering Directorate (SED), and throughout the Center are asking how fast is the change happening, and what can we do to better understand this process.
On Friday, January 26, some of their questions were answered when Dr. Lelia Vann, Science Directorate director, with Dr. Ed Browell, also of the SD, gave a presentation on the results of a recent Earth science report from the National Research Council (NRC) of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). The report, called the Decadal Survey, is a community-based document that provides consensus views of frontier science opportunities for maintaining the Nation's scientific leadership.
Vann introduced the report, called "Earth Science and Applications from Space: National Imperatives for the Next Decade and Beyond." The Decadal Survey, a 10-year-plan for U.S. Earth science missions, was released by the NAS on Jan. 15 at the American Meteorological Society's annual meeting in San Antonio. The assessment provides a well-respected source for community priorities and the scientific motivations to the funding research and operational agencies and the Congress.
Image Right: Bruce Wielicki and Ed Browell, senior scientists from the Science Directorate (SD) discussing the National Research Council (NRC) Decadal Survey and Langley's potential role in leading survey-initiated missions and research. Credit: Katie Lorentz
NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the United States Geological Survey (USGS), funded the Decadal Survey, which was written over two years by the NRC Executive Committee and seven panels made up of a diverse group of researchers. Following Vann's introduction, Dr. Browell explained his role in the report as a member of the Weather Panel and special consultant to the Executive Committee. With Browell's first-hand participation in the preparation of the report, the SD and SED feel confident in their roles in possibly implementing some of the report's suggestions by both exploiting existing resources and bringing new capability to NASA Langley.
Browell said, "The over-arching recommendation from the report is for the U.S. government, working in concert with the private sector, academe, the public, and its international partners, to renew its investment in Earth observing systems and restore its leadership in Earth science and applications."
More specifically, the report also suggests that NOAA and NASA should undertake a set of 17 recommended Earth-observing satellite missions, phased over the next decade in order to rebuild the dwindling numbers of environmental spacecraft.
"Our strength has always been our end-to-end capability with our engineers, i.e. from conceptual design, technology development, operations, science, algorithms, data processing and distribution, to applications," said Vann. "These missions are ours to lose."
While the decadal study does not direct future funding, it does act to advise policy makers, at NASA, NOAA, and in Congress. Therefore, both Browell and Vann agree that there is definitely an opportunity to take major roles in response to the report, including major mission roles in possibly six missions; major technology roles in at least eight instruments; and major science investigations and modeling in the field of climate, air quality and weather.
Vann explains that the next phase in the project for Langley is to provide an 'independent' assessment of the NRC Decadal Study report and its relationship to NASA Langley’s Earth Science Program; assess the Decadal Study relationship to the current NASA Science Plan, Earth Science mission studies, funding and partner relationships; and develop strategic NASA Langley roadmaps for future science missions and technology including gap analyses, partnering, competition, resources, return on investment, etc.
"The decadal study provides us with a compelling opportunity to work together -- the Science and Systems Engineering Directorates; civil servants and contractors; and international partners -- to make important strides in Earth and atmospheric science," said Vann. "We know how to partner both nationally and internationally. Look at our current success of CALIPSO with our French partners - CNES."
View the Decadal Survey prepublication:
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