by Peter Colohan (he’s awesome!), Office of Science and Technology Policy, Executive Office of the President, April 19, 2013
Ever wonder where the Weather Channel gets its data? Where the satellite images for Google Earth come from? These data and much more come from a complex array of satellites, ocean buoys, stream gauges, human surveys, and other platforms for collecting what the scientific community calls Earth observations. These data are used every day to protect life and property and answer key questions about our planet.Today, the Obama Administration’s National Science and Technology Council released a National Strategy for Civil Earth Observations—a framework for increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of the Nation’s Earth-observation enterprise. Currently, 11 Federal departments and agencies engage in Earth observation activities, collecting volumes of important data about the Earth on an ongoing basis, using an array of sophisticated tools and systems. The new Strategy outlines a process for evaluating and prioritizing Earth-observation investments according to their value to society in critical areas such as agriculture, global change, disasters, water resources, and weather.Each year, the U.S. Government invests significant resources in Earth-observations systems to collect data about Earth’s land, oceans, ecosystems, and atmosphere. Together, these systems take the pulse of our planet, providing critical Earth-system data that scientists and analysts can then turn into usable information about climate and weather, disaster events, land-use changes, ecosystem health, natural resources, and more. Ultimately, information and services derived from Earth-observation data—including some as ubiquitous as weather forecasts and GPS-navigation—are used by policy makers, resource managers, business leaders, first-responders, and citizens to make important day-to-day decisions.But as the Nation’s Earth-observation capacity has grown, so has the complexity of the Earth-observation endeavor. The demand for data, the complexity of the tools required to collect those data, and the sheer amount of data being collected, all are increasing. The National Strategy for Civil Earth Observations aims to help Federal agencies face these challenges by better-organizing existing Earth-observation systems and information, and coordinating plans for future projects. In support of the Obama Administration’s Open Data Initiatives, this Strategy also provides specific guidance on how agencies can make these Earth observations more open and accessible to the public.Going forward, the Strategy will be used as a basis to inform a broad National Plan for Civil Earth Observations—a blueprint for future investments in US Earth-observing systems, including agency roles and responsibilities, and creative solutions to challenges related to maintaining the Nation’s Earth-observing systems. It will also reinforce the United States’ ongoing commitment to work with international partners through the multi-national Group on Earth Observations GEO.The Strategy released today provides an evidence-based framework for routine assessment and planning across the entire family of Federal agencies engaged in Earth observations. It will help agencies compare notes, prioritize activities, and improve the quality of data about the planet—with the ultimate goal of meeting society’s most pressing data and information needs. Read the Strategy here.Learn more about global Earth-observation efforts here.Peter Colohan is a Senior Policy Analyst at OSTP
Earth observation is a science and technology with tremendous power to collect data over the whole of the Earth at many wavelengths and at many spatial resolutions. But does this science and technology, or rather the use of this science and technology, have an ethical dimension? This article explores the application of ethical concepts to Earth observation. Three main aspects of ethics are examined: duty theories of ethics, consequentialist ethics, and environmental ethics. These ethical ideas are then applied to the UN Principles on Remote Sensing, the International Charter on Space and Major Disasters and to Google Earth, and also to questions of security and privacy. The article concludes that there is no absolute ethical position in relation to Earth observation, but a dependency on the perspective of the observer. For link to the article (but it’s behind a $58 paywall, seriously), click here.
by Dina Spector, Business Insider, Feb 11, 2013
The eighth satellite in NASA’s Earth-watching Landsat fleet will launch Monday, Feb. 11 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California…. The joint program between NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey is the longest-running data record of Earth observations from space. …The Landsat program enables scientists to track major changes of Earth’s surface, including melting glaciers, urban explosion and the effects of natural disasters.
Read more from Business Insider NASA’s Landsat Data Continuity Mission Launch – Business Insider.
For the latest Landsat news go to it’s NASA mission page here.
- Landsat Data Continuity Mission Awaits Liftoff (spacedaily.com)
Geoplace.com, July 9, 2012
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) injected a bit of life into its aging Landsat 5 satellite, which has orbited Earth more than 150,000 times since its launch in 1984 and has been experiencing problems with its thematic mapper (TM) instrument. Engineers have been able to power-on a long-dormant data-collection instrument aboard the satellite—the multispectral scanner (MSS), which has been offline for more than a decade. USGS now is acquiring MSS data over the United States only. The news is significant, because USGS continues to work toward launch of an eighth Landsat satellite, meaning that data from current Landsat craft still are key to Earth-observing operations. Landsat 7, activated in 1999, continues to collect images worldwide. But, in 2003, Landsat 7 experienced a hardware failure that caused a 22-percent loss of data in every image. Meanwhile, the Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LDCM or Landsat 8), is scheduled for launch in January 2013.
For full text of the article, visit USGS Keeps Landsat 5 Satellite Alive | Articles – Publishing Titles | GeoPlace.
by Economist, May 12, 2012
ON APRIL 8th Envisat, Europe’s largest Earth-observing satellite, unexpectedly stopped talking to its users on the Earth below. Since then those users have been frantically trying to re-establish contact. They rely on Envisat’s radars and other sensors for a wide range of measurements, from the temperature of the oceans to the chemistry of the stratosphere. Scientists have used it to gauge ocean conditions for shipping and to investigate earthquakes; its data have been the basis of thousands of scientific papers.
For full text of the article, visit Earth-observation satellites: Something to watch over us | The Economist.
- Satellite observes rapid ice shelf disintegration in Antarctic (naturenplanet.com)
- ESA’s Ailing Envisat Imaged by Another Earth Orbiting Satellite (universetoday.com)
- Legendary Earth-Observing Satellite Goes Silent (news.discovery.com)
- Op-Ed Contributor: Earth-Observing Satellites in Jeopardy (nytimes.com)
- Researchers Unable to Revive Europe’s Envisat (news.sciencemag.org)
By Debra Werner, Space News, January 20, 2012
U.S. government agencies are working together to look for ways to reduce the cost of future Landsat missions as a result of congressional direction included in the 2012 budget passed in December. “Although Congress has provided $2 million to the U.S. Geological Service for Landsat 9 program development, they have also requested that the Administration re-examine how to proceed with future Landsat missions,” Jon Campbell, spokesman for the Interior Department’s U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), said in a Jan. 10 email. … U.S. President Barack Obama requested $48 million for USGS to pave the way for development of Landsat 9 and Landsat 10, spacecraft designed to extend the Landsat program’s 40-year record of providing moderate-resolution imagery on global agriculture, land use and natural disasters. …
For full text of the article, visit US Government Looking To Lower Landsat Costs | SpaceNews.com.
- FY 2012 Appropriation for U.S. Geological Survey (geodatapolicy.wordpress.com)
- USGS Landsat 5 Mission in Jeopardy (gisuser.com)
- Landsat satellites track Yellowstone’s underground heat (eurekalert.org)