DSCOVR Mission May Be Gutted

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Here is the latest twist in the bizarre story about the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR). Apparently, the US Air Force is in discussions with NASA to take over the mission, with one important catch: that all the Earth observing instruments be removed.

It seems the Air Force is more interested in looking at the Sun than our warming planet and plans are being made to send the spacecraft one million miles distant – only to look the other way.

DSCOVR is unique experiment that would place a spacecraft at a gravitational parking spot one million miles away where it could continuously observe the Earth as it circles the sun.

This unique vantage point would allow us for the first time to directly measure the energy budget of our warming planet. This spacecraft would also immediately lay to rest any remaining scientific questions about the origins or seriousness of climate change. Strangely, this fully completed spacecraft remains in a box somewhere in Maryland, eight years and $100 million after it was built.

DeSmog Blog has written a series of investigative articles on the status of this strange mission. NASA has repeatedly refused to release any internal documents relating the status of DSCOVR or why the space agency refuses to launch it, even when requested through the Freedom of Information Act.

This spring, Congress submitted a bill that included a clause requiring NASA to explain to the taxpayer within 180 days why this mission remains in storage and what it plans to do with it. The bill was signed into law last week by president Bush, meaning NASA must present their plan regarding DSCOVR by April 13, 2009.

Assuming that there are senior scientists within NASA that are threatened by the novel methodology of the DSCOVR experiment, or well placed oil interests that want to keep the so-called climate debate going, this legally mandated deadline presents a problem. What to do?

The latest bizarre development with the Air Force would perversely get NASA off the hook. The spacecraft would be launched, NASA would met the strict legal requirements of resolving the mission, yet DSCOVR would return no data for which it was designed. Problem solved.

This latest twist is entirely consistent with the eight years of foot-dragging and obfuscation from the leadership of NASA. For those of us with a growing suspicion about why DSCOVR remains in a box, we can only wonder how all of this will play out.

In the meantime, I will be publishing some new and disturbing internal documents about the DSCOVR mission in the next week. If anyone out there has any additional documents or insights they would like to share in confidence, please contact me directly at [email protected].

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