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With controversial talk about global warming heating up during the 2012 U.S. presidential election year, scientists need systems in place to actually monitor the earth and determine how green it really is. How does the ozone layer really look, and what kind of natural disasters are on the way? The problem is, the very missions we need to determine earth’s fate are the same missions that are losing “greens” and thus falling off the map like a shooting star.
According to a new report from the National Research Council, new space missions and current long-running ones are fading into the darkness because of budget cuts. In 2007, the research council had said that earth observations programs were imperative over the next decade through the United States Geological Survey, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
The ability of the United States to track environmental changes in space is waning at a time when this is absolutely critical for green purposes, according to Dennis Hartmann, professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington. The national budget concerns are preventing new space equipment from arriving on the conveyor belt, while existing equipment in outer space is aging and eventually will become inoperable, said Hartmann, who also chairs the committee that generated the research council report.
Space equipment is essential to monitor earth surface winds for the predicting of hurricanes, while equipment used to pinpoint movements in the earth’s crust is necessary to monitor earthquakes. Long-term weather forecasts and the ability to identify emergency beacons and rescue stranded individuals stem from the use of these types of space satellites. Even planning air quality and water quality is made possible using space systems.
Efforts currently are in place to appoint a new team of experts to achieve goals over the next several years to keep the use of space equipment strong, and a cost-restricted plan for space mission development is being refined.
“If nothing is changed, we’re predicting to be down to 25 percent of our current capabilities by 2020,” Hartmann said.
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