Protecting Planet Earth

Having looked back at Earth from outer space, I have seen just how fragile our home planet is – and I’m committed to doing everything I can to help protect it.

Yesterday, President Obama announced an ambitious Climate Action Plan to cut carbon pollution and put us on a more environmentally sustainable course. At NASA, where one of our primary goals is to improve life for everyone on the planet, I’m pleased to say that we have a number of missions already supporting this important work through our robust Earth Science program.

Scientific data and insights are essential to help government officials, communities, and businesses better understand and manage the risks associated with climate change. NASA will continue to work with the Administration as we continue to lead in advancing the science of climate measurement and adaptation and the development of tools for climate-relevant decision-making by focusing on increasing the availability, accessibility, and utility of relevant scientific tools and information.


Earth observation and the science associated with it have been central to NASA’s mission for decades. Missions such as the Landsat series of satellites have been helping us establish a baseline of understanding and demonstrating the planet’s changes over the past 40 years. Recently launched missions such as Suomi/NPP will enhance and continue our long tradition of climate observation.


Earth Science is a strong priority of the President’s fiscal year 2014 budget request for NASA. The budget supports 7 new Earth Science missions on course to launch through 2020 after the launch of 4 new Earth science missions in 2014 — the Global Precipitation Mission (GPM), Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2), Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP), and the Stratospheric Aerosol and Gas Experiment III (SAGE III) instrument to be launched to the International Space Station.


These cover a wide spectrum of Earth observations and join NASA’s 17 Earth science missions in space observing our planet’s atmosphere and oceans, its climate, weather patterns, and much more. The data we collect helps us understand our planet as a dynamic, unified system. It helps us predict natural and manmade disasters such as hurricanes and wildfires and recover from them. Our satellites will play a critical role in helping us assess the carbon emissions problem, its history, current status, and possible future so decision makers can make informed policy decisions.


NASA’s Earth Science program was established to use the advanced technology of our space program to understand and protect our home planet by using the view from space to study the Earth system and improve predictions of its changes. To meet this challenge, NASA promotes the full and open sharing of all data with the research and applications communities, private industry, academia, and the general public.


NASA was the first agency in the US, and the first space agency in the world, to provide full and open access in a timely manner, with no period of exclusive access to mission scientists, and at no cost.


NASA made this decision after listening to the user community, and with the background of the newly-formed U.S. Global Change Research Program, and the International Earth Observing System partnerships. Other U.S. agencies and international space agencies have since adopted similar open-access policies and practices.


In line with agencies across the government working on climate change issues, NASA will help disseminate scientific information and translate scientific insights into practical, useable knowledge that can help decision-makers anticipate and prepare for specific climate-change impacts.


All of our work in exploration has benefits here on Earth, by helping us understand and protect our natural resources, improve lives, and strengthen the economy. The President’s climate initiative provides one more opportunity for our missions in space to bring science and technology home to the American people in a meaningful way.