Trump’s De­struc­tion of NASA Earth Sci­ence Im­per­ils Us All

Trillions - - In This Issue -

Don­ald Trump’s as­sault on cli­mate sci­ence and crit­i­cal Earth mon­i­tor­ing is un­der way and the re­sults will be dis­as­trous for all life on Earth.

The fate of bil­lions of peo­ple and count­less species of wildlife will be de­ter­mined by the de­ci­sions made now and com­ing years in re­sponse to run­away cli­mate change and over-pop­u­la­tion.

Mak­ing in­tel­li­gent pol­icy de­ci­sions re­quires ac­cu­rate and up-to-date in­for­ma­tion, and for decades, the only source for much of this in­for­ma­tion has been Amer­ica's Na­tional Aero­nau­tics and Space Ad­min­is­tra­tion (NASA). That crit­i­cal in­for­ma­tion will soon cease to be avail­able and there is no ready re­place­ment.

On De­cem­ber 11, Trump signed what he called “Space Pol­icy Direc­tive 1,” di­rect­ing NASA to send Amer­i­cans back to the moon and on a mis­sion to Mars. This may ini­tially seem ex­cit­ing but at a time when all life on Earth is in peril, and the U.S. al­ready has a highly ad­vanced space pro­gram through the Air Force, it is id­i­otic. It is es­pe­cially id­i­otic when one con­sid­ers what Trump plans to cut from NASA'S bud­get to pay for his bo­gus moon and Mars project. With NASA re­port­ing di­rectly to Trump and not through any other body, Trump has a unique op­por­tu­nity to de­stroy much of what NASA has spent decades evolv­ing as its crit­i­cal role in mon­i­tor­ing Earth’s health and ex­plor­ing many fron­tiers of sci­ence.

Among the many crit­i­cal projects NASA is in­volved with right now is the use of the ex­ist­ing joint NASA/NOAA (Na­tional Oceanic and At­mo­spheric Ad­min­is­tra­tion) satel­lites to look down on Earth and help us un­der­stand how our planet is chang­ing. Those satel­lites in­clude sen­sors such as the fol­low­ing:

SEAWIFS, a sen­sor used to col­lect global bi­o­log­i­cal ocean data. Its pri­mary and orig­i­nal mis­sion was to mea­sure the amount of chloro­phyll pro­duced by ma­rine phy­to­plank­ton, which is a key mea­sure of the health of the oceans and their abil­ity to sus­tain life.

The NASA/NOAA Vis­i­ble In­frared Imag­ing Ra­diome­ter Suite (VIIRS). It is used to mea­sure cloud and aerosol prop­er­ties, ocean color, sea and land sur­face tem­per­a­tures, ice mo­tion and tem­per­a­ture and Earth’s albedo. (Albedo is the frac­tion of so­lar en­ergy re­flected from Earth back into space. Most im­por­tant for this

mea­sure­ment is ac­tu­ally its op­po­site: how much en­ergy is ab­sorbed by the planet and con­verted into heat.) With this de­vice, ocean pig­ment con­cen­tra­tions and sea sur­face tem­per­a­tures (SST) can be mea­sured ac­cu­rately glob­ally ev­ery two days. Its data is the in­for­ma­tion of­ten dis­played as an oblate spher­oid map of tem­per­a­tures through­out the en­tire world, as cal­cu­lated and cal­i­brated against black­body ref­er­ences in the de­vice by or­ga­ni­za­tions such as the NASA God­dard Space Flight Cen­ter in Green­belt, Mary­land.

With these and other sen­sors on board the satel­lites, as well as those re­cently added on the In­ter­na­tional Space Sta­tion, the satel­lites can mon­i­tor the fol­low­ing:

Rapid changes in phy­to­plank­ton growth. This is not just an is­sue for global warm­ing, which is cer­tainly sig­nif­i­cant, but the rapid changes in phy­to­plank­ton growth are al­most al­ways tied to a rapid change in the en­tire seaborne food chain, some­thing that af­fects fish­ing and the food sup­ply for na­tions through­out the world. Phy­to­plank­ton pop­u­la­tions have al­ready been col­laps­ing in nu­mer­ous ar­eas.

Fires, de­for­esta­tion and the rapid im­pact of meth­ane re­lease as frozen peat and other ar­eas are un­cov­ered.

Land and sea tem­per­a­tures, and even soil mois­ture, to help pre­dict crop yields and ad­vise farm­ers when to ir­ri­gate and about the im­pact of new cli­mate-adap­ta­tion strate­gies around the globe. (Sim­i­lar satel­lites are used by In­dia and the Chi­nese to help mon­i­tor the im­pact of mon­soons and flood­ing periods.) The cur­rent satel­lites mon­i­tor as much as 80% of the fields around the world.

Sea lev­els as cli­mate change marches on around the globe.

Ex­treme weather pat­terns to an­a­lyze and pre­dict hur­ri­canes, ty­phoons and even tsunamis when ap­pro­pri­ate. NASA was study­ing the al­most daily bizarre and vi­cious storms that have been plagu­ing the Great Plains states and Colorado dur­ing sum­mer.

Ground and tec­tonic plate shifts that re­late to po­ten­tial far-reach­ing ef­fects such as earth­quakes around the Pa­cific Ring of Fire.

To­gether, these satel­lites, along with the sci­en­tists who use them, have proven in­valu­able and highly ac­cu­rate in pre­dict­ing pre­cisely what is hap­pen­ing from the im­pacts of global warm­ing and cli­mate change, es­pe­cially in the past two decades.

While these satel­lites and their Earth-based an­a­lyt­i­cal tools al­ready help us to un­der­stand what is hap­pen­ing to our planet, much more is needed that are be­ing set aside as NASA’S pri­mary pur­poses are be­ing remapped for the “age of Trump.” These in­clude the fol­low­ing:


The PACE (Plank­ton, Aerosol, Cloud, Ocean Ecosys­tem) mis­sion, as planned by NASA go­ing back to 2010, was to be a “strate­gic cli­mate con­ti­nu­ity mis­sion” in sup­port of NASA’S Plan for a Cli­mate-cen­tric Ar­chi­tec­ture for Earth Ob­ser­va­tions and Ap­pli­ca­tions from Space. Its in­stru­ments were de­signed to pro­vide an up­graded means of mon­i­tor­ing aerosol par­ti­cles, clouds and a va­ri­ety of fac­tors – in­clud­ing ocean color – re­lated to ma­rine ecosys­tems, not lim­ited to phy­to­plank­ton.

The mis­sion was informed to a ma­jor ex­tent by the re­sults of the In­ter­gov­ern­men­tal Panel on Cli­mate Change, which re­ported on its work in 2007 un­der the lead­er­ship of then Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush. It was to pro­vide ex­tended data track­ing on clouds and aerosol par­ti­cles and their im­pact on ocean bi­ol­ogy and chem­istry and all the liv­ing things within it.


The CLARREO (Cli­mate Ab­so­lute Ra­di­ance and Re­frac­tiv­ity Ob­ser­va­tory) pro­gram came out of the same 2007 plan­ning ef­forts as PACE. It was what was iden­ti­fied as a “Tier 1 mis­sion” and was to be planned in phases, with the ini­tial de­ploy­ment of a re­flected so­lar (RS) spec­trom­e­ter, a sci­en­tific tool to be hosted on the In­ter­na­tional Space Sta­tion.

CLARREO works through con­tin­u­ous mon­i­tor­ing of very high ac­cu­racy spec­tral re­flectance and ra­di­ance mea­sure­ments over a much wider wave­length mon­i­tor­ing range (com­pared to pre­vi­ous in­stru­men­ta­tion avail­able in space) of 350 to 2300 nm. It was de­signed with mul­ti­ple cal­i­bra­tion tools to pro­vide much higher po­si­tional and tem­po­ral ac­cu­racy for its mea­sure­ments. It was also de­signed to pro­vide a much higher de­tail of met­rics so that it would take an en­tire month to fully sam­ple the en­tire globe from 52on to 52os lat­i­tude.


Un­like the CLARREO and PACE projects, which have not yet made their way into or­bit and be­gun com­mu­ni­cat­ing data to Earth, the DSCOVR (Deep Space Cli­mate Ob­ser­va­tory) satel­lite is al­ready de­ployed and send­ing data. The catch is that Trump wants to shut off all the “Earth-view­ing” in­stru­ments on it.

DSCOVR was orig­i­nally in­vented by Vice-pres­i­dent Al Gore in the late 1990s and was funded and fi­nally

launched into space in 2015 atop one of Spacex’s Fal­con 9 rock­ets. Its pur­pose was to mon­i­tor Earth and to track so­lar wind, the par­ti­cles from the sun that cre­ate ge­o­mag­netic storms above Earth.

Its in­stru­ments in­clude EPIC, which cap­tures high­res­o­lu­tion images of the sun­lit side of Earth, and NISTAR, a de­vice that tracks ir­ra­di­ance across Earth for a va­ri­ety of what were iden­ti­fied as “cli­mate sci­ence ap­pli­ca­tions. ”dscovr is op­er­ated by NOAA and NASA to­gether. Its op­er­a­tion is not in ques­tion, as NOAA has no or­ders to halt main­te­nance of the satel­lite’s ca­pa­bil­i­ties. What is be­ing di­rected, how­ever, is for NASA to stop pro­cess­ing the Earth sen­sor data gath­ered from the in­stru­ments within the satel­lite. The rea­son seems clear – to keep yet another sci­en­tific project re­lated to cli­mate change anal­y­sis go­ing for­ward within the gov­ern­ment – but it is def­i­nitely not for bud­get rea­sons, which is what the pub­lic will likely be told. That is quite clear be­cause the en­tire NASA an­a­lyt­i­cal bud­get tied to DSCOVR in Fis­cal 2018 was only $1.2 mil­lion.

NASA’S Ed­u­ca­tion Pro­gram

Some­thing else Trump’s pro­posed bud­gets would slash is the ed­u­ca­tional out­reach pro­gram, which re­ceived $115 mil­lion for the 2016 fis­cal year. Un­der the 2018 pro­posed NASA bud­get, the pro­gram funds would drop to zero.

The NASA ed­u­ca­tion pro­gram has been around for years as a pri­mary means of reach­ing out to pro­fes­sors, teach­ers and stu­dents as part of a long-term in­tent to get chil­dren in­ter­ested in sci­ence and en­gi­neer­ing. With a cen­tral place to carry out this out­reach, all of NASA’S pro­grams had the abil­ity to touch the youth of Amer­ica in a unique way.

This pro­gram also in­cluded an on­go­ing se­ries of in­vest­ments to sup­port schools in or­der to help kids get ex­cited about the po­ten­tial of fu­ture ca­reers in ex­tremely im­por­tant fields such as aero­space (which even sup­ports the mil­i­tary, mak­ing it an odd thing for the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion to want to quash). Funds here are man­aged via the Na­tional Space Grant Col­lege and Fel­low­ship Pro­gram as well as NASA’S Mi­nor­ity Univer­sity Re­search and Ed­u­ca­tion Project (MUREP).

The pro­gram also paid for as­tro­nauts to visit class­rooms, for other pub­lic ap­pear­ances of NASA sci­en­tists and spokes­peo­ple on mul­ti­ple fronts and even for the fa­mous Space Camps, which used to draw such crowds as chil­dren for their first real con­tact with space-re­lated sci­ence and “fun. ”the cur­rent pres­i­den­tial bud­get has NASA’S Sci­ence Mis­sion Direc­torate given the re­spon­si­bil­ity for keep­ing its out­reach pro­grams ac­tive. But with $0 in the bud­get for the pro­gram, it is not hard to imag­ine what will hap­pen to it. Worse still, if Trump con­tin­ues to “zero out” these out­reach ac­tiv­i­ties and some­how is in­stalled to a sec­ond term of of­fice, there could be an eight-year gap in the con­tact that Amer­ica’s chil­dren would have with these kinds of op­por­tu­ni­ties.

What’s Left

The new space pol­icy for the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion, which dumps all of the above items, was crafted by prin­ci­pal au­thor Robert S. Walker, for­mer House Sci­ence Com­mit­tee Chair­man, with help from econ­o­mist and pub­lic pol­icy ex­pert Peter Navarro. As the two wrote in their sum­maries on the sub­ject about a year ago, af­ter Trump was elected but prior to his tak­ing of­fice, the new “NASA should be fo­cused pri­mar­ily on deep space ac­tiv­i­ties rather than Earth­cen­tric work that is bet­ter han­dled by other agen­cies.” It fur­ther sug­gested that NASA’S work of this kind mostly “re­lates to weather,” ac­cord­ing to another pol­icy doc­u­ment writ­ten by Walker at around the same time a year ago. He said: “It re­lates to Earth-based needs. And so NOAA is prob­a­bly a more ap­pro­pri­ate place for that to be done.” He ne­glected to men­tion that in do­ing that shuf­fling, all the bud­gets for “Earth-based needs” work would be com­pletely gut­ted within NASA and not added back into NOAA.

If all that is gone, what would re­place that crit­i­cal work of mon­i­tor­ing cli­mate change and sav­ing the planet and all its species from ex­tinc­tion? Walker said that “hu­man ex­plo­ration of our en­tire so­lar sys­tem by the end of this cen­tury should be NASA’S fo­cus and goal. ”these are the pol­icy state­ments that are guid­ing why, on De­cem­ber 11, Trump di­rected NASA to send sci­en­tists back to the moon and, soon af­ter, to Mars. Af­ter that, if Trump’s poli­cies are con­tin­ued, manned space probes will be fly­ing through­out the rest of the uni­verse.

There are a num­ber of prob­lems with the logic in this.

1. It is mas­sively stupid to spend money on need­less space mis­sions when our own planet and all life on Earth is in se­ri­ous peril. In­stead of spend­ing hun­dreds of bil­lions that the coun­try doesn’t have on trav­el­ing into space, we must fix our own planet.

2. Amer­ica is bank­rupt, and it sim­ply can­not af­ford to spend any more on space travel.

3. NOAA has not been given the bud­get, per­son­nel and fa­cil­i­ties nec­es­sary to repli­cate NASA'S ex­per­tise. There­fore it can't and won't take on the du­ties pre­vi­ously han­dled by NASA.

4. The United States al­ready has a highly ad­vanced se­cret space pro­gram run by Air Force Space Com­mand. There is no need to for NASA to du­pli­cate what is al­ready be­ing done.

Amer­ica’s se­cret space pro­gram was first pub­licly ex­posed in 2001, when Gary Mckin­non hacked into U.S. Space Com­mand com­put­ers and learned of the ex­is­tence of “non-ter­res­trial of­fi­cers,” “fleet-to-fleet trans­fers” and a se­cret pro­gram called “So­lar War­den.” In 2002, he was charged by the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion for hav­ing com­mit­ted “the big­gest mil­i­tary com­puter hack of all time” and stood to face prison time of up to 70 years. In 2016, the United King­dom qui­etly de­cided to not ex­tra­dite him. The United States could not risk an open trial and have more of its se­crets ex­posed.

Mckin­non claimed, “They are some very cred­i­ble, re­lied-upon peo­ple, all say­ing ‘Yes, there is UFO tech­nol­ogy, there’s anti-grav­ity, there’s free en­ergy, and it’s ex­trater­res­trial in ori­gin and [they’ve] cap­tured space­craft and re­verse en­gi­neered it.’”

If one digs through enough de­clas­si­fied doc­u­ments and in­ter­views cred­i­ble peo­ple with first-hand knowl­edge of Amer­ica’s se­cret space pro­gram, it be­comes clear that the United States does al­ready have highly ad­vanced tech­nol­ogy that would en­able it to es­tab­lish bases on the moon and Mars and that those bases have likely ex­isted for some time.

Even Ger­many had plans to send men to the moon in the late 1930s, us­ing tech­nol­ogy chan­neled from en­ti­ties on Alde­baran. Ac­cord­ing to Ger­man sci­en­tist Dr. Ar­min J. Bickel, in a state­ment he made af­ter retiring from Amer­ica’s se­cret space pro­gram at Van­den­berg Air Force Base, he and the other en­gi­neers on Hitler’s moon project were trans­ferred to the V2 rocket pro­gram in the early 1940s. The Nazi moon project was shelved un­til the United States took it over at the end of the war. In 1944, the V2 was the first man-made ob­ject to be launched into space. Bickel’s state­ment can be found in the Oc­to­ber 4, 1974, edi­tion of the Lom­poc Record and were re­peated when in­ter­viewed by this au­thor in 1987.

Other re­tired deep-black mil­i­tary sci­en­tists pri­vately claim to have gone to the moon in the 1950s and that the NASA moon land­ing in 1969 was done for PR pur­poses and to con­ceal Amer­ica’s more ad­vanced se­cret space pro­gram.

An in­tel­li­gent Pres­i­dent who does not want to de­stroy the United States and the planet’s fu­ture would in­crease NASA’S Earth sci­ence bud­get, not re­duce or elim­i­nate it. With the United States with­drawn from the com­mu­nity of sane and ra­tio­nal na­tions, it will be up to the Euro­pean Space Agency, Rus­sia and China to step up and fill the Earth sci­ence void but they are start­ing with too lit­tle too late. Per­haps it would be bet­ter if hu­man­ity sim­ply re­moved Trump from power and re­stored NASA'S Earth Sci­ence pro­grams.

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