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New Proposals to Help NASA Advance Knowledge of Our Changing Climate

On May 7, 2024, NASA announced the selection of four proposals for concept studies of missions to benefit humanity through the study of Earth science. Most of what we know about Earth has been gathered through NASA’s 60 years of observations from space, such as this image of our home planet as shown as a mosaic of data from MODIS (Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer).
Credits: NASA

NASA has selected four proposals for concept studies of missions to help us better understand Earth science key focus areas for the benefit of all including greenhouse gases, the ozone layer, ocean surface currents, and changes in ice and glaciers around the world.

These four investigations are part of the agency’s new Earth System Explorers Program – which conducts principal investigator-led space science missions as recommended by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine 2017 Decadal Survey for Earth Science and Applications from Space. The program is designed to enable high-quality Earth system science investigations to focus on previously identified key targets. For this set of missions, NASA is prioritizing greenhouse gases as one of its target observables.

“The proposals represent another example of NASA’s holistic approach to studying our home planet,” said Nicky Fox, associate administrator, Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “As we continue to confront our changing climate, and its impacts on humans and our environment, the need for data and scientific research could not be greater. These proposals will help us better prepare for the challenges we face today, and tomorrow.”

As the first step of a two-step selection process, each of these proposals will receive $5 million to conduct a one-year mission concept study. After the study period, NASA will choose two proposals to go forward to launch with readiness dates expected in 2030 and 2032. The total mission cost cap is $310 million for each chosen investigation, excluding the rocket and access to space, which will be provided by NASA. 

Most of what we know about our changing planet is rooted in more than 60 years of NASA’s Earth observations. NASA currently has more than two dozen Earth-observing satellites and instruments in orbit. The missions ultimately selected from this set of proposals will make their own unique contributions to this great Earth observatory – which works together to provide layers of complementary information on Earth’s oceans, land, ice, and atmosphere.

The four proposals selected for concept studies are: 

  • The Stratosphere Troposphere Response using Infrared Vertically-Resolved Light Explorer (STRIVE)
    This mission would provide daily, near-global, high-resolution measurements of temperature, a variety of atmospheric elements, and aerosol properties from the upper troposphere to the mesosphere – at a much higher spatial density than any previous mission. It would also measure vertical profiles of ozone and trace gasses needed to monitor and understand the recovery of the ozone layer – another identified NASA Earth sciences target. The proposal is led by Lyatt Jaegle at the University of Washington in Seattle.
  • The Ocean Dynamics and Surface Exchange with the Atmosphere (ODYSEA)
    This satellite would simultaneously measure ocean surface currents and winds to improve our understanding of air-sea interactions and surface current processes that impact weather, climate, marine ecosystems, and human wellbeing. It aims to provide updated ocean wind data in less than three hours and ocean current data in less than six hours. The proposal is led by Sarah Gille at the University of California in San Diego.
  • Earth Dynamics Geodetic Explorer (EDGE)
    This mission would observe the three-dimensional structure of terrestrial ecosystems and the surface topography of glaciers, ice sheets, and sea ice as they are changing in response to climate and human activity. The mission would provide a continuation of such measurements that are currently measured from space by ICESat-2 and GEDI (Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation). The proposal is led by Helen Amanda Fricker at the University of California in San Diego.
  • The Carbon Investigation (Carbon-I)
    This investigation would enable simultaneous, multi-species measurements of critical greenhouse gases and potential quantification of ethane – which could help study processes that drive natural and anthropogenic emissions. The mission would provide unprecedented spatial resolution and global coverage that would help us better understand the carbon cycle and the global methane budget. The proposal is led by Christian Frankenberg at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

For more information about the Earth System Explorers Program, visit:


Liz Vlock
Headquarters, Washington