DSCOVR Mission May Be Gutted

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].


I have just sent the following to my congressman, Rep. Jay Inslee:

I was pleased to note that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2008 has been signed into law. Section 207 requires NASA to report on a “Plan For Disposition Of Deep Space Climate Observatory”.

DSCOVR offers the only possibility for gathering planet wide climate information (particularly on cloud cover). This data is critical if climate science is to advance. This information would be particularly useful in putting to rest numerous theories that attempt to downplay the role of human induced climate change.

I have heard that the Air Force is now sniffing around this program and that they would eliminate all the earth observing features and direct to toward solar research only. This would be tragedy for climate science.

Please do all you can to get DSCOVR back on track and launched.

what can people outside the US do to get this back on track?

Fern Mackenzie

You could write to your MP and to ask your government to fund the earth observing instruments. Even if this only causes a delay until the new president takes office it could be effective.

This is obvioulsy a case of George W. Bush trying to pursue a scorched earth policy against “the greenies trying to save the world.”

Cheers, Alastair.

Do you realize the sheer idiocy of your statement?

“This is obvioulsy a case of George W. Bush trying to pursue a scorched earth policy against “the greenies trying to save the world.””

Bush signed the bill forcing NASA to come to a decision. How is this “pursuing a scorched earth policy?”

Ummm… But NASA is a “Greenie” organization. If the reason for not launching is coming from inside NASA, it is to serve some sort of liberal agenda, not conservative.

When Dubya came into power, his administration placed political management at the top of numerous Federal Agencies, often these individuals had no scientific qualifications. Their function was to exercise political control over scientists talking to the media, or severely limit what was communicated, in-order that science communicated with the public didn’t undermine Administration policy. It was a means of keeping the public in the dark about the science, by muzzling the scientists.

“I have been a climate researcher with NASA for over two decades and the last eight years are the first attempts at ‘control’ of NASA public affairs that I had seen. I primarily experienced this through interactions with center public affairs officials who were very frustrated by the increased NASA HQ ‘control’ of the messages going out. It has improved since the Jim Hansen issue, but has not yet returned to levels prior to the [George W.] Bush administration.” —anonymous NASA scientist

From http://www.ucsusa.org/scientific_integrity/abuses_of_science/freedom-to-speak-additional.html#AgencyFactsheets

LOL.. I wondered how long till someone came in here blaming it on Bush.

Who’s going to be to blame for all the worlds problems when he is out of office?

Good question! In fact, I intend to blame George W. Bush for EVERYTHING for the next 8 years. It’s payback for all those republicans who have been blaming everything on Clinton.

Your theory seems unlikely. The leading scientists at NASA are die hard proponents of anthropogenic Global Warming. It is far more probable that they are nervous that such an instrument will measure the cooling trend evident for the last 8 years.

Maybe they’re avoiding the massive embarrassment of proving so many prominent world figures wrong by showing that there is NO global warming, therefore the nonexistent condition cannot possibly be man made. Or maybe they want to better observe the real source of the warming and cooling of the planet; the Sun. As the planet continues to cool through this current solar cycle, it will become harder and harder to continue to perpetrate the lie of global warming, and the ones who are pushing it for their own financial gain will hopefully live long enough to be called on their lies and their true motivations of money and control.

IF someone is lying about global warming and pushing something for their own financial gain, say, alternative energy, in the end that’s GREAT anyhow because oil is running out and the faster we can exploit all sources of energy more efficiently the less chance there is that we’ll deplete one and then be left with nothing.

1. I’m not sure if I understand what motivation NASA would have for trying to bury this project on the premise that it would affirmatively verify global warming theory?

2. I don’t think that there is any reputable dispute that the earth is warming. The debate is the degree to which human activities are influencing this warming.

3. Since no historical information exists, I am not sure how this project could affirmatively or negatively verify global warming. It would take hundreds (perhaps thousands)of years of data, to identify a conclusive trend. Thoughts?

Craig, DSCOVR’s instruments (if they aren’t removed) could measure the Earth’s energy imbalance, if any. Climate is, essentially, a function of this – the net result of Incoming Energy - Outgoing Energy. Weather is just a matter of shifting that energy around.

To date, the current instruments measure weather and we need to do some analysis to look for climate signal in that noise. However, if DSCOVR directly observes an energy imbalance (one way or the other), it is essentially measuring the key input into climate. If it returns a positive (and potentially increasing) imbalance, then that shows more energy’s coming in than going out (however, other research shows that total solar irradiance – the energy output from the sun – has been steady for at least 30 years, meaning that the imbalance likely comes from a reduction in outgoing energy – which is what GHG warming predicts). If it returns a negative value, then more energy’s going out than coming in, and the ZOMGWE’RECOOLING crowd is probably correct.

(DSCOVR also has the interesting effect of being able to study the entire lit face of the Earth *with clouds*, which are currently a large source of uncertainty in climate models. This means that it can measure albedo, or the amount of the sun’s light that the earth reflects (clouds factor into this), on a global scale. This is also a fundamental factor of determining our impact on climate. In short, DSCOVR would actually definitively answer this one way or the other, and in a very short stretch of time.)

That is why we wouldn’t need thousands of years of data.

I think this has more to do with internal NASA politics than anything else. Living near a NASA center and having acquaintances that are NASA administrators, I hear far too much about internal power struggles in that agency to see any outside malevolence involved.

NEO satellites and climate data crunching are run out of a different department (and different centers) than satellites that leave earth orbit. Launching DSCOVR has the effect of placing the major new climate observing equipment (and it’s associated research budget) in a whole new group of bureaucrat’s hands. It also means that the data (and opportunity for first publication) is first received by scientists outside of Hansen’s climate change group.

Even if the data 100% confirmed the existing climate groups’ previous publications, this will be strenuaously fought so they can maintain their budgets. If it did not confirm previous publications, it would cause their budgets to tumble even faster and lead to a different Department’s being percieved as correcting errors made by Hansen, a big scientific black eye for NASA.

Unlike the previous writer, I suspect Bush would love to see this thing launched since it will diminish Hansen’s standing no matter what its data shows. It’s just that there are thousands of small ways for NASA insiders to delay a satellite launch and only a few ways to actually get one off the ground.

Your argument is so full of stupid that it isn’t worth dissecting.

A prime example of reverse logic used in desperation to blame anybody but the useless but culpable Dubya.

you need to change “warming planet” to “cooling planet”. http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/oa/climate/research/records/index.php?ts=monthly&elem=mint&month=10&day=29&year=2008&submitted=Get+Records#recs

The continued dragging of feet by all who could get this satellite launched makes sense.

Believers in the human-caused environmental problems are afraid that the data returned will not support their doomsday message, and the unbelievers are afraid that it will.

Why take a chance when there are billions of dollars at stake both ways?

Everybody wants to promote their agenda, but nobody really needs to know the truth at this time.

“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.”

You’re kidding right? You actually believe that?

Hmmm… why hypothesize a right-wing conspiracy when it could just as easily be a left-wing conspiracy. Maybe there are scientists and tree-hugger politicians that have too much to loose – even on the small chance that their theories are proven wrong – to launch this probe. NASA has been spending billions trying to prove Human Induced Global Warming. What would happen if they prooved that it isn’t true – or that their strategy of using low orbit satallites for Earth observation was flawed?

Of course the idea that this one satilite parked at the L1 Lagrangian point can answer the global warming issue once and for all is a bit of a stretch of the truth.

“what can people outside the US do to get this back on track?”

Well… you could get your own government to build and launch their own deep space observatory! Why do so many people from other countries want to have input in everything the US does? LOL!

The last ice age ended 20,000 years ago, long before the industrial revolution. What caused the Earth to warm back then? For that matter, what caused the Earth to cool to start that ice age? Why can’t you people (and I DO mean that as a pejorative) just accept that climate change is natural?

The ice age in the Northern Hemisphere, America, Europe and Asia, only ended 10,000 not 20,000 years ago. That was when temperatures jumped by 10c in as little as three years. See “The Two Mile Time Machine” by Richard Alley.

That warming occurred when the sea ice in the North Atlantic, which had spread out from the Arctic as far south as Ireland, suddenly melted.

With George W. Bush’s unilateral refusal at G7 meetings to act on global warming, and the consequent loss of the last of the Arctic sea ice, so presenting us with the prospect of yet another rapid warming, then I feel I have good cause to blame him for the disaster that is about to strike.

Perhaps I am mistaken. He may not have acted alone. He may have been backed by the American people. If so they also deserve the blame!

Cheers, Alastair.


“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”

How, out of Bush signing a bill that makes NASA explain why they aren’t using it to monitor Earth, do you come to say that this is obviously a “scorched earth” policy by Bush?

I don’t like the man either, but why do people always have to say everything that goes wrong is Bush’s fault? Even in cases like this one where he has signed a bill that holds an agency accountable for their actions.

Since when did the debate about “man-made climate change” end? As far as i know, it is mostly politicians (how much has Al Gore made on the global warming swindle?) and climate scientists (whom also have a LOT of money to make on this because if there is no crisis, no reason for them to be getting paid). There are plenty of scientists that do NOT believe the hype and we should not just shut out debate on account of Al Gore. As far as the DSCOVR goes, I would like to see it up there and studying our planet as well and will do what i can to help.


(Didn’t we also believe that the earth was heading for the next ice age in the ’70s?)

Gore just out of office was worth $3M. Today he is worth more than $300M.

Yes, and those scientists then were relying on computer models written by James Hansen.

Warming? Um… no warming since 1998.

maybe we should be looking at the sun.
solar activity is (so far) the best predictor of temperature levels on the earth.

the sun is in a quiet period, we’re cooler.

that’s not to say that greenhouse gasses aren’t contributing, but it looks as if the sun is much more of a factor.

Where did you get your scientific information? Fox news?

Thought so.

Just because you figured out how to get words on the typewriter with a tv on it doesn’t make it true. No warminging since 1998? Complete BS. You flaunt your ignorance as though you are proud of it. But why bother with scientific research when Bill O’Riley tells you everything you need to know?

There are two debates, one much more vigorously argued than the other:

Is the earth warming? - Widely accepted that it is, not widely argued that it isn’t. The satelite could end this debate.

Is the warming anthropogenic? This is the question, and the satelite wouldn’t offer any insight here.

Who cares if global warming is mand-made or a natural phenomenon? Honestly, the question should be about trying to stop it, not whom to blame when the earth is no longer inhabitable by humans.

Climate change is ultimately bad for us, no matter what the cause. Who cares whether global warming is being caused by natural phenomena? I’m sure the victims of the last few ice ages and global warmings are secure in their knowledge that they weren’t the ones to blame.
At any rate, I’m sure NASA is simply prioritizing their projects. With their tiny budget they can’t really afford to do everything. Of course, I’m only seventeen years old, so I really don’t know that much.

Reconstructions of solar variability going back more than a couple of decades are fabrications based on steady-state atmospheric gases and humidity, steady-state temperature, and steady-state cloud cover, among other essentials.

The only thing steady about these guesses is that there is never steady-state anything, so reliance on an imagined steady-state sun in “sophisticated computer models” is fatuous.

If I am to base my loyalties on personality rather than measurable data, I shall stand with this year’s new petition of 32,000 signatories possessing university degrees in physical science. More than nine thousand possess doctorates in physical science. That is physical science, not political “science,” social “science,” or any other exercises in cat’s cradles, houses of cards, pipe dreams, or smoke and mirrors. Text follows:

“We urge the United States government to reject the global warming agreement that was written in Kyoto, Japan in December, 1997, and any other similar proposals. The proposed limits on greenhouse gases would harm the environment, hinder the advance of science and technology, and damage the health and welfare of mankind.

“There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gasses is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the Earth’s climate. Moreover, there is substantial scientific evidence that increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide produce many beneficial effects upon the natural plant and animal environments of the Earth.”

Arrayed against them are one-half of one hundred and their credulous camp followers who are suitably mobbed up with gun-toting world governments as to have discovered the lodestone for extracting cash from the gainfully employed.

I’d put my money on internal BS about who has the biggest pianist… seriously… human beings are way too petty, way too selfish, and almost incapable of keeping secrets for it to be a conspiracy…

Heck, even WWI was basically the King of England and his cousin the Kaiser (and the Czar) trying to see who had the biggest package… regardless of who suffered…

The Air Force has no legal right to hijack this project. Besides, they have more than enough money in their black project account to fund their own without interfering with what NASA is doing.

If the earth were to be observed with this instrument, everyone would know that we are entering a cooling period, not a warming one, and this whole global warming thing is bogus. This is to be the next big issue used to control us, to control our movement and how we are taxed. Of course the government doesn’t want us to find out about this.

This craft has been ready to launch for 8 years, yet it is being held back so these measurements cannot be taken. Does anyone wonder why? They’ve been hiding something, and now the Air Force wants it so we won’t find out what they’ve been hiding.

Why can’t you people (and I DO mean that as a pejorative) just accept that climate change is natural?

Nobody is disputing that climate change happens naturally. The issue is one of the degree to which the climate changes naturally. Given the evidence available, it appears that the climate is changing faster now than it ever has before in the geological history. The primary mechanism seems to involve the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. There have always been natural fluctuations in the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, but it was previously tempered by a balance in the global ecosystem. The problem is that the geological record clearly shows that current atmospheric CO2 levels are orders of magnitude higher than ever before and increasing faster than ever before since the industrial revolution. If it is true that the primary mechanism behind climate change is CO2, it would follow logically that vastly exceeding the normal high limit for CO2 in the atmosphere is likely to cause (on a geological timescale, not next Tuesday) climate change on a scale never before seen in the history of the Earth. Furthermore it is a whole lot easier to put CO2 into the atmosphere than to take it back out. It’s not like we can just suck it back out and call it good if climate change becomes plainly apparent. We’re not talking about hotter summers and higher sea levels, the real concern is a long term major shift in the balance of life on the planet that would likely lead to the extinction of most if not all living things.

What I don’t understand is the people who are so intent on denying that climate change exists. Suppose we take major steps to reduce atmospheric CO2 and the whole thing turns out to be wrong, what do we lose? A little bit of money, maybe a little bit of personal convenience, but that’s pretty much it. Suppose we do absolutely nothing and the climate change problem turns out to be very real, what do we lose? Everything. Everybody dies, no more humanity. I’m sorry if I can’t help regarding anyone who advocates ignoring the issue as a profoundly ignorant and selfish person with only his short-term personal interests in mind.

it really doesn’t matter whether or not we’re having any obvious influence on the global climate (although it seems to be a possibility, which should be enough). either way, we’re being really inefficient, and foolish, preferring to buy (from teurrists!) a fantastic source of energy that is finite, instead of being smart enough to solve our own energy needs with renewable everpounding solar. fuck wind and hydro, they’re just engineers wanking off, solar has so many possibilities… is kind of ridiculously obviously the way to go.

save the geofuels for crazy space exploration!

and i guess get this stupid thing off the ground, and push for an administrative restart for NASA, cause lately they’re sucking pretty hard. but geez, enough with the climate change blah blah blah, enough with squandering hydrocarbons. was there such a fuss when we switched from steam? or horsies?!

The whole “Sun is responsible for recent warming” nonsense is so easily debunked that it’s almost embarrassing.

Folks who still buy into “the Sun is responsible” nonsense should take a look at this post I made on another forum addressing claims similar STER’s: http://tinyurl.com/5dcp33. That post includes a plot of high-precision satellite measurements of solar output going back nearly 30 years. Consider the questions that I posed in that post.

STER, feel free to dig up a plot of global-average temperatures for the past 30 years and compare the global temperature trend with the solar output changes over that same period of time. There is simply no way that any reasonable person can conclude that the sun has been driving climate-change over the past few decades.