Did the Whitehouse Kill DSCOVR?

Wed, 2008-03-19 20:04Mitchell Anderson
Mitchell Anderson's picture

Did the Whitehouse Kill DSCOVR?

Fresh documents have trickled out of the US government indicating that direction from the Whitehouse may have had a direct hand in killing the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR).
DeSmog Blog has been researching an investigative series on this mothballed climate change spacecraft designed to monitor the energy budget of the planet from the unique vantage of 1 million miles away.
NASA strangely cancelled the project after spending over $100 million building it. Prominent members of the scientific community were outraged at the decision.You can view their laundry list of letters here.
Another US government agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), requested that NASA transfer the mission to them. Not only did NASA not provide to spacecraft, they did not even respond to the request.
Last fall, I filed a freedom of information request to NOAA to shed some light on this mystery.
As usual, the documents were several months overdue and heavily censored. However, what was released reveals how George Bush’s Whitehouse is interfering in NASA’s science program, and suppressing climate science.
In a letter dated August 31, 2004, Dr. Robert Charlson expresses his frustration to a colleague at the University of New Hampshire:
I have exchanged several letters with NASA Headquarters about DSCOVR, and am concerned that I can’t get a straight answer from them… We have spent a lot of money and personal effort to establish EOS [NASA’s Earth Observing System] and it’s associated programs and it would be tragic to cut them off before they can bear fruit. To further constrain our research field would indicate that NASA headquarters may be deliberately trying to de-emphasize climate science.”
Dr. Charlson makes the scientific importance of DSCOVR plain in another letter addressed to NASA headquarters:
Again, I urge you to press the case for launching and operating DSCOVR so that we in the scientific community can make real progress towards understanding climate and the impacts human activity on it. Without it, will continue to be stuck with excessive uncertainties and dependence upon assumptions instead of data.”
In response to Dr. Charlson’s plea for action, Associate Administrator for Earth Science Ghassem Asrar reveals that DSCOVR was nixed by NASA due to directions from the Whitehouse:
“It is widely recognized that the science offered by DSCOVR would help make possible an integrated self-consistent global database for studying the extent of regional and global climate change. Due to Space Shuttle manifesting constraints recently directed by the President, the DSCOVR mission is currently without a launch opportunity.”
Dr. Asrar was likely referring to George Bush’s outrageous interference in the NASA science program, directling them in January 2004 to commit between $229 billion and $1 trillion to send astronauts to Mars for an interplanetary photo op. However, one does wonder what is exactly is meant by “constraints recently directed by the President”.
By 2005, NASA was through pretending this mission would ever fly under their watch. Associate Administrator Dr. Mary Cleave stated plainly in a letter dated December 2005:
Restrictions for the remaining Space Shuttle missions continue to preclude remainfesting DSCOVR for launch, a situation that is not expected to change…Unfortunately, the significant funding required to ready and launch DSCOVR within the context of competing priorities and the state of the budget for the foreseeable future precludes continuation of the project.”
These letters provide clear evidence that at the very least, George Bush’s Mars mission boondoggle helped killed DSCOVR. However, there is much that remains a mystery.
If the decision to kill DSCOVR is simply about money, why won’t NASA allow another US government agency launch it? Why are NASA, NOAA and the Whitehouse so secretive about releasing the documents relating to DSCOVR? If NASA is serious about climate research, why would they mothball a project so important to the scientific community, citing “competing priorities”? Is this another example of NASA trying to silence climate science?
Next posting: Did NASA lie about this mission to the media?

Previous Comments

Mitchell, I think it’s probably not correct that the “manifesting constraints” reference had anything to do with Mars since as far as I know the Mars program neither reduced the total number of shuttle missions nor produced any cargo for the shuttle.

The relatively benign explanation would be that DSCOVR ended up on the list of axed cargo that was a result of the reduced number of flights due to the second shuttle loss (which occurred in early 2003). IIRC NASA had all of these flights planned out to the end of the shuttle program, so the loss of a shuttle meant a 25% reduction in the number of remaining missions.

Even so, the comparison of what was kept and what was axed would be interesting to see, and could result in a definite circumstantial case being made that the Bush regime simply seized any excuse they could to get rid of DSCOVR. In particular, which mission was DSCOVR scheduled for? If it was a relatively early one, it would be interesting to see what else got canceled from the same time frame, and in particular anything that the scientific community demonstrably would have considered to be not as high of a priority.

Other factors to look at would be how many of the retained payloads were amenable to launching by other means, and whether there was an increase in military missions (the payloads for which are not detailed IIRC).

It’s most interesting to note that the effect of the censorship is to render the letter I have examined effectively meaningless or at least ambiguous.

There would seem to be no other reason than politics to obfuscate the content of these letters, except that they are so embarrassing to certain individuals. Since they couldn’t justify withholding them, they attempted to render them incomprehensible.

One gets the distinct feeling that the only true intention behind the cancellation was a political / ideological one to avoid DSCOVR discovering ‘an inconvenient proof’.

In the denialist game, absence of evidence is evidence of absence - even if it isn’t in the world of science or anywhere else for that matter.

Hang it - in the denialist game, the combined results of numerous carefully constructed studies published in the most respected ISI peer-reviewed journals are instantly trumped, by a single op-ed published in some rag or website like junkscience*.

*Don’t you just love that nominative determinism!

== One gets the distinct feeling that the only true intention behind the cancellation was a political / ideological one to avoid DSCOVR discovering ‘an inconvenient proof’.==

Goresat, the $100 million webcam in the sky, was a political mission from the start and that may be what really doomed it. The Inconvenient Truth may well be that the minimal science that could be accomplished by it is not sufficient to justify spending another nickel on it.

And I thought it was the “skeptics” who complained that we need more scientific studies to settle this AGW “debate”.

And now they’re cheering on an effort to have less science?

Ha ha ha. Denialist “logic”, as usual.

Frank Bi, fact-addict and anti-lie bigot

“Al `Fat Al’ Gore [is fat]” – Harold Pierce

I prefer not to comment to you Frank Bi. I saw your weirdo website before you stopped putting up your link to it. What’s up with that kind of serious weirdness?

“I prefer not to comment to you Frank Bi.”

Well, but you just did. And you still hate science, and you’re still cheering on an effort to axe scientific studies. So much for “we need more science” skepticism, eh?

By the way, I’ve got a new web link up. Have fun.

Frank Bi, http://tinyurl.com/yp98x4
“Al `Fat Al’ Gore [is fat]” – Harold Pierce

Hi Mitchell. It’s unclear to me whether or not the FOIA request you recently made to NOAA was fulfilled. From where did the new documents trickle? I wrote my own letter to Hugh Schratwieser and received no reply.

Thanks for your help Steve (and other Desmog Blog readers) in trying to contact Mr. Schratwieser. It made a difference. The day after my last posting on the months of foot dragging from NOAA around DSCOVR, I started receiving documents. It was also not the typical way FOIA documents were released. NOAA seemed suddenly in a big rush to provide the FOIA package and it came in three pieces over the course of two weeks. I received the final package dated Feb 29. That is 74 working days since I filed the request on November 8, 2007. Federal bodies are required to respond within 20 working days, though they frequently ignore this. Did I get everything I asked for? Read my next post…

Well, I can’t get all big-headed about my considerable influence (HA!) – I didn’t write my email until a couple of days after you posted your last update. I’m looking forward to your next one!

Is there a possible connection between DSCOVR and RADARSAT, produced by a Canadian company which wants to sell it to Alliant? Canadians are objecting to the sale, after spending our tax money on it.

…It was confirmed yesterday that Industry Minister Jim Prentice will delay deciding whether he will approve the sale of the information and geospatial services branch of MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates (MDA) to U.S. firm Alliant Techsystems for 30 days…

…Among MDA’s signature technologies is the $524 million Radarsat-2 satellite – the high-tech imaging satellite launched last December, which taxpayers paid more than $420 million to develop… http://tinyurl.com/2kpnfq

The same thing crossed my mind.

There is no connection between DSCOVR and RADARSAT except for moonbat conspiracists. Would that be you? ;)

…what’s the connection between DSCOVR and Al Gore again, beyond the “Worldwide Satanic Liberal Pinko Islamo-Communist Conspiracy” that’s in your head?

Frank Bi, fact-addict and anti-lie bigot

“Al `Fat Al’ Gore [is fat]” – Harold Pierce

“…what’s the connection between DSCOVR and Al Gore again”

You mean, aside from it being a campaign year stunt, which Gore actually claims came to him “in a vision”? Yes, a “vision”. He originally conceived it to be nothing more than a web-cam, basically, looking at Earth, because he thought it would be neato. The “scientific” aspects were tacked-on after the fact, once critics famously mocked the self-proclaimed inventor of the Internet.

That’s the connection to Gore, you fool.

I guess it’s clear who are the conspiracy theorists now.

Frank Bi, fact-addict and anti-lie bigot

“Al `Fat Al’ Gore [is fat]” – Harold Pierce

Frank: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deep_Space_Climate_Observatory
The original mission included albedo measurements in addition to ‘webcam’ and solar measurements were added afterward. “Congress asked the National Academy of Sciences whether the project was worthwhile. The resulting report stated that the mission was “strong and vital.”[1]” The conspiracy theory would have to be about Gore and the National Academy of Sciences, not NASA.

So Gore has a vision for the future. And Rob has delusions about being relevant. We’ll see what history has to say …

Fern Mackenzie

Here is an interview by Mike Dufy about the statiling data from another NASA satallite.
you NEED to read this.


Duffy: “Can you tell us about NASA’s Aqua satellite, because I understand some of the data we’re now getting is quite important in our understanding of how climate works?”

If Marohasy is anywhere near right about the impending collapse of the global warming paradigm, life will suddenly become a whole lot more interesting.
A great many founts of authority, from the Royal Society to the UN, most heads of government along with countless captains of industry, learned professors, commentators and journalists will be profoundly embarrassed. Let us hope it is a prolonged and chastening experience.

as soon as you mentioned Marohasy. I looked at the interview, but she’s not saying anything we haven’t heard before, with or without reference to the Aqua satellite. What she does say is very vague, and left me asking “That’s it? Whats Mr T so excited about that I NEED to read it? I think I will look around for some scholarly reaction from climate scientists about Roy Spencer’s analysis before I get worked up.

Fern Mackenzie

Marohasey is mentioned in comments at Realclimate; such as here: http://www.realclimate.org/index.php?p=529#comment-82184

As is Roy Spencer. Neither one of them seems to have much credibility, despite her claims that RS’s work is “accepted” etc.

Fern Mackenzie

One question is whether this is of enough concern that scientists (perhaps including those at Realclimate) would be willing to send a letter to congress and mainstream media (like 60 Minutes or ABC/NBC News) encouraging them to throw their weight behind the effort to get answers. Maybe like some other issues it needs to move beyond the blogosphere. After all, this is our future, and our tax dollars, we’re talking about.


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