A satellite that might save the world has been sitting in a metal box in a NASA building for the last five years – very likely due to the cynical politics of climate change. The Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) probe was completed at a cost of over $100 million and was supposed to be launched to the gravitational parking spot between the Sun and the Earth, 1.5 million kilometers away. From this lofty vantage, DSCOVR would have a continuous view of our sunlit planet and could provide unique date to calibrate global climate models. Among other things, the unique data from DSCOVR would have put to rest whatever “debate” remained about the accuracy of satellite measurements – a favorite straw man of so-called climate skeptics.
Sounds pretty important. What happened? Last January, NASA quietly cancelled the DSCOVR mission, citing “conflicting priorities”. This is in spite of strong endorsement of this mission by the National Academy of Sciences, and virtually the entire climate science community. Mission Leader Dr. Francisco Valero calls this project “a necessity, an urgent necessity.” The Ukrainian government even offered to launch DSCOVR free of charge on a Tsyklon II rocket – the most reliable launch vehicle in the world.
The word from NASA? No thanks. US congress later added insult to injury by raiding the NASA budget to the tune of $568.5 million for 198 non-peer reviewed “Congressional interest items”—otherwise known as pure political pork.
While climate change proceeds apace, this critical spacecraft designed to study the most important issue in the world will continue to not cause problems for the fossil fuel lobby – harmlessly sitting in box in Maryland.
Maybe someone should hold a bake sale…
Mitchell Anderson is a Vancouver based environmental writer. His blog is at mitchellanderson.blogspot.com. This is his first guest post at DeSmogBlog.