Did NASA Mislead the Media About the DSCOVR Climate Project?

Fri, 2008-04-18 10:36Mitchell Anderson
Mitchell Anderson's picture

Did NASA Mislead the Media About the DSCOVR Climate Project?

New information provided by inside sources to DeSmogBlog raises questions about public statements from NASA when asked by the media about the cost of launching Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR).

The date was January 24, 2008. Four NASA senior brass had just finished delivering a rambling one hour news briefing on their much-maligned Earth sciences program - noteworthy only in that there was no news. No new announcements. No new missions.

Seth Borenstein, the science reporter for Associated Press rose to ask the first question, specifically about why NASA had not launched DSCOVR.

This spacecraft is already built at a cost of over $100 million to NASA yet has remained mothballed for years, due ostensibly to “competing priorities.” DSCOVR is designed to view the planet from the unique vantage point of one million miles distant, and according to leading researchers would immediately settle any remaining debate on the origins or seriousness of global warming.

NASA Associate Administrator Alan Stern responded to Mr. Borenstein’s pointed question by saying that it was largely a matter of money:

The analysis that I have seen indicates that its about a $200 million project to bring the satellite back to readiness for flight, to do the launch, and the flight mission.”

$200 million seems like a lot. Was Mr. Borenstein told the truth? Perhaps not.

It seems there is a 193-page document dated February 2006 entitled “Solar Wind Trade Study” that details to cost of refurbishing, launching and operating DSCOVR in partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Interestingly, the document was neither released nor referenced in any of the materials accessed through recent freedom of information requests, either to NASA or NOAA.

For the record, I had requested “any records, reports, correspondence, emails, memos, minutes, or other documents whatsoever touching on, or relating to the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) from the period January 1, 2000 to the present.”

However, sources close to the mission have confirmed the document exists and provided selected details of its contents. DeSmog Blog is of course happy to share these details with the entire world.

In 2006, NOAA requested that the mission be transferred to them. NASA has never responded. This report was pivotal to this request and explored three cost sharing scenarios between NOAA and NASA to launch and operate DSCOVR.

The cheap scenario would see DSCOVR fly on a Ukrainian Tsyklon rocket – the most reliable launch vehicle in the world. The total cost of this mission would be around $80 million to launch and operate DSCOVR for five years.

The catch is that this bare bones scenario would only allow DSCOVR to monitor solar storms to provide early warning for low earth orbit satellites from space weather. This scenario would not provide funding for DSCOVR to monitor the Earth.

The medium cost scenario would see DSCOVR launched on an American-built Space X rocket at a cost of approximately $55 million to NASA and the remainder covered by NOAA. This would pay for refurbishing, launching and operating DSCOVR for five years and include the important Earth-monitoring and climate measurements that spacecraft was designed to do.

The high-cost scenario involves launching DSCOVR on a Delta rocket at a cost of about $160 million, shared between NASA and NOAA.

NASA has reasons to oppose option one, including a bureaucratic requirement to “fly American”, both for personnel receiving NASA funding, and its spacecraft. Even if the Tsyklon is a better, cheaper, more reliable launch vehicle than anything produced in the US, this option is a non-starter for the pencil pushers in NASA HQ.

However option two would not be verboten, given that the Space X rocket is built in US. This would only cost NASA a mere $55 million, not $200 million as Alan Stern told Seth Borenstein at the January NASA news briefing.

To put this in perspective, the $55 million it would cost NASA to refurbish, launch and operate DSCOVR for five years is a mere 0.3% of NASA’s annual budget. It is also less than 3% of what the space agency spends every year on the International Space Station – an orbiting installation that has been derided by many in the scientific community as entirely useless.

So why didn’t NASA brass share this with Mr. Borenstein?

Why wasn’t this report released (or referenced) in materials provided to Desmog Blog through freedom of information requests addressed to NASA, NOAA or the Whitehouse?

What exactly are these government agencies trying to hide?

DeSmog Blog will keep digging for information on this critical issue. Stay tuned…


Previous Comments

It seems crystal clear that the reasons provided were not the reasons why the plug was pulled on DSCOVR. But that would have been embarrassing and humiliating.

Petty politics overriding science while declaring the exact opposite - isn’t that what the fossil fuel addicted G.W.Bush Administration is all about?

DeSmogBlog raises questions about “pubic” statements from NASA. LOL A little editing is needed.

These pubic statements by NASA are really completely pubescent. And as soon as this pre-pubescent administration is replaced by a more post-pubescent one, I am sure this bird will fly. Or not.

Is the three week early growing season in the north east, the melting arctic, etc - I mean you could go on and on and on - not enough proof for the Greenhouse Effect (as we called in Austria in the 19bloody80s? How will some obscure data from deep space convince your average climate change skeptic?

It won’t, so we might as well spend the money on finding solutions.

“will fly. Or not.” did you meant “willnots: ?

Economies always run better when the weather is friendly. So whether or not the Earth is Warming, or Cooling, or doing nothing at all, any technology which leads towards control of our global climate (eventually weather control) will be worth the money in the long run.

DSCOVR is one such technology.

Hello Mitchell!

If you want to see this puppy fly, plunk down the DeSmogBlog Visa card and pay for it. Otherwise hush up your mouth!

The other reason NASA is not launching the satellite is that it just might show the earth is cooling down. There is 50-50 chance for this result. If the earth is in fact cooling down, do you know how billions of project research money goes down the tube? And not only that, Don Al “Fat Al” Gore and the IPCC would have to give back the Nobel. I wouldn’t be suprised that the Heinz Lady would ask climate-change hitman Jimmy the Enforcer for a refund of 250 thou as well as the life time supply of canned beans!

There is no doubt the earth is cooling down. The snow flakes just might be falling on Metro Vancouver this weekend. Brrrr! It’s really chilly out there. But that is no excuse for not mowing the grass!

See you guys later!

I am what you call your average skeptic.
We are at the least 6 weeks behind as far is our growing season is concerned..it was -8c last night.
The Arctic has regain and surpass the “Summer” ice lost.
biggest gain since 1966? if I recall right.
Today I canceled my first week of may fly fishing holidays.. There is no way the ice will be off our lakes for another 5 to six weeks…Last few years it was off on the 15 of August. I know Climate versus temperature is not the same.
I am being told look out your window and you can see AGW is for real…well if that all it take to be convince.. what I see right now is a complete opposite of what I am suppose to see!
BTW 300 million sound familiar? .. Maybe Al Gore could fork the bill and settle this Debate.

Oooops should be 15 April..

More dimwits who are too stupid to notice the difference between weather and climate. Look up La Nina.

Stick my head out the window climate science :p

Hello Mitchell!

You guys got any snow shovels I can borrow? Thank God for the snow. I just hate mowing the grass!

I guess you took Shop instead of Science, Harold? A bit easier repairing the Briggs & Stratton on the mower than understanding the difference between climate and weather, ain’ it? Sher makes more cents than yer ‘rgument that ya don’ send up a sat’lite ‘cause ya might git an answer to a vital question, don’ it?

No doubt, everyone knows that climate and weather are totally unrelated. That’s why they get so much frost damage in Jamaica and all those damned sandstorms on Ellesmere Island.

Stupid equivocating warmists!

The irony is that, for years, every July heat wave, every February thaw, every tornado and, more recently, every major blizzard has been, according to warmist doctrine, proof positive of the ravages of nasty CO2. Get your stories straight, boys and girls.

Anyone with a basic high school science education who was paying attention in class knows climate and weather are related, Zog. The only way you could highlight even more that you don’t have a clue about simple Earth Science is to wear a dunce cap.

And the only way that Romeogolf could further highlight his utter imbecility would be to fail to recognize the sarcasm in my statement that climate and weather are known to be unrelated. Jeezus - surrounded by cretins.

It seems that among the Warmist cult, being a cretin isn’t considered a hindrance. In fact, it increasingly appears to be a prerequisite.

The story is straight, Zog. It’s not terribly hard to understand it if you actually want to; obviously you don’t, otherwise you wouldn’t be acting like such a immature imbecile. Do you get paid by some carbon corporation for spreading disinformation or do you proffer your inanity for free? Really, it’s just too easy to show you’re a dyed-in-the-wool denier.


Warmists don’t count La Niña years when record low temperatures are recorded but, wowee, El Niño years are something else. So, when North American temperatures in 1998 reached mid-1930s levels, the warmists roared, “disaster, death, destruction, we’re all going to diiieeeee” and then whispered up their sleeves, “Geez, El Niño sure is handy when you’re trying to peddle climate bullshit.”

“Warmists” don’t expect climate science to be determined by any one factor, whether its La Nina, El Nino, or the thickness of your skull in winter.

That’s a flat-out lie. The faithful, with their childlike fixation on CO2 and only CO2, refuse to consider the possible effects of other factors - even solar activity.

ZOG, support your claim. Are you joking or just lying?

The message from the IPCC has always been that when all of the natural drivers are considered and taken into account, they cannot account for the degree and rate of warming that has been observed. CO2 is a known greenhouse gas with predictable effects on climate trends, and human beings have been belching the stuff into the atmosphere faster and faster for more than 150 years.

Fern Mackenzie

You mean the way the denial crowd grabs on to 1998 and claims it’s been cooling for 10 years?

Fern Mackenzie


As a matter of fact, I have taken a lot of “shop courses”.
In the Specialized Curriculum in Chemistry at the Univ. of Ill. (U-C), I spent about 50% of my time in a variety of “shop courses” such chemistry, physics and microbiology labs. At UC Irvine, I spent another four years in the shop course called the chemistry research lab. And after that another 30 years at SFU in the pheromone research chemistry lab shop.

FYI, we pheromone chemists use a lot of hardware and machinery (and many millions of the Canadian tax payers’ dollars) to crack the chemical communication systems of economically-important insect pests. And I have cracked a great many of these.

Do not anger Harold the Giant Troll, or I’ll track you down, ripout and devour you heart and liver, and throw your twitching carcass to the Island of Doubt, where the vicious and rabid Dingo Dogs will finish you off!

Sorry about that! Why spend any money on the satellite when the Argo buoy system will provide data for estimation of the ocean teperature change and heat content. According to Roger Sr, determination of the heat content of the ocean is best method to assess global warming and hence climate change.

…the ‘warmist cult’ ignore all other factors besides CO2 (any support for that stupid claim, ZOG?). He could read the latest IPCC report to disabuse himself of that notion, or he could read this abstract of a 1997 paper: http://tinyurl.com/5tnu9w , but my point is that it’s AGW-deniers who are conflicted on the issue of other factors. You seem to think that ocean heat content is all you need to know to assess climate change while ZOG insists that attribution of temperatures is important. You AGW-denier types should get your story straight!
Anyway, if either of you had read very much on this issue, you would know that measuring the inputs and outputs to the climate system (solar, albedo, etc) is an aim that the ‘warmists’ are pushing for. We want to learn more about how the Earth warms. IPCC assigns a level of certainty to the attribution of warming to CO2, but it would be helpful to know more about specific forcings and feedbacks. You’ve seen skepticalscience.com, right? ARGO has yielded from conflicting results – http://tinyurl.com/4jt4pf – and research results like those that would be produced by DSCOVR would help to understand mysteries like that.

Steve L

“… any support for that stupid claim Zog …”

Only 15 years of closely following the controversy. I’ll grant that a few cultists have hedged their bets with statements along the lines of “solar cycles may have some effect but it is negligible”, especially in the last year or two but, the high profile propagandists like Hansen, Gore and Suzuki never mention the possibility of anything but de debil CO2 being implicated.

As far as skeptics getting our stories straight, you have to realize that, not being a cult, we don’t get together and swap fantasies. However, for the record, I do indeed think that ocean heat content is important. Apart from the ARGO program that warmists are so desperate to throw dung at, El Nino and La Nina are probably one hell of a lot more important than AGW.

You sound a bit testy tonight Steve. You should get out more often. Sow a few wild oats before the world comes to a flaming end.

ZOG, I linked to a paper written in 1996. You say you’ve been closely following the controversy for 15 years. Okay, I don’t have time to cite every single paper or newspaper article or (name the media you prefer here) to try and disprove your claim. You don’t have time to link to a single one in which Hansen or Gore or Suzuki or (insert ‘high profile propagandist’ here) says that climate is only affected by CO2 and nothing else? Tell me. Anybody reading this might notice that you’re claiming people concerned about AGW are cultists who don’t want to learn anything while, in fact, the entire point of this thread is to discuss important pieces of missing information. To quote (loosely) Ned Flanders: “Science is like a loudmouth spoiling the end of the movie, but there are some things we don’t want to know – important things!” Who are you aligning yourself with on this thread? Are you siding with Ned Flanders (and Harold Pierce) or with Mitchell Anderson?
What is the point of your silly assessment of my physiological state and lame advice?

Hansen’s early projection scenarios included one in which a large volcanic eruption occurred. Huh, why would he bother to include that scenario if he thought only CO2 mattered?

Aren’t you the guy who keeps asking who has experienced climate change in their lifetimes? What do the old loggers from the BC interior say when you ask them? I’m thinking that you are familiar with the research on bark beetles – shouldn’t you know something about milder winters over the last 30 or so years? Where I grew up in Alberta (of all places) most people my age remember winters being a lot colder when we were younger.
Not that such anecdotal evidence is good proof of anything. How many people have noticed human lifetimes increasing in their lifetimes? How many people have noticed species going extinct in their lifetimes? “It mustn’t be happening if nobody notices!” Being a scientist I would expect you to ask a more pertinent question than that. Then again, being a pheromone scientist at SFU, I would expect you to know something about bark beetles in the BC interior.

Thanks for confirming your immaturity and narrow-mindedness, Harold the Giant Troll. I can’t say I’m very impressed with your experience when you behave like such a child; doesn’t help your credibility much. About the only thing that could have constructively contributed to this discussion was your last question (improperly punctuated as a statement). However, the answer to that is but a click away if you were genuinely curious…


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