Thursday, November 29, 2007

When will we see DSCOVR again?

It's sometimes terrifying, in this age of information, to realize how much we don't know. A satellite built by NASA that could answer the major questions we have about global warming, and settle disputes over the reality of man-made climate change, is gathering dust in a Maryland warehouse. The importance of the information it might have provided cannot be understated. The satellite is built and paid for, and was scheduled for launch two years ago, but for undisclosed though not unsought reasons, NASA and the federal government have kept the Deep Space Climate Observatory satellite (DSCOVR) locked away, and with it the American public's right to an answer.

It’s a slap in the face to every American citizen that the Executive Branch has denied that it should be held accountable under the Freedom of Information Act to disclose documents concerning why the DSCOVR satellite was retired before it’s first launch. NASA itself also opted to withhold all internal documents (against the FOIA), on the grounds that they wanted to protect against public confusion as to the actual reason for their actions. We’re still confused, and we should be outraged.

Prior to DSCOVR's original launch date, NASA issued no official statement, but quietly announced that the mission was canceled due to "conflicting priorities." That was after spending millions of taxpayer dollars to build it. I'm sad to say I hadn't even heard of the DSCOVR satellite until this week, thanks in part to the fact that most major news sources are playing the same quiet game as NASA and the White House (although it's not fair to take blame off myself for not being more alert). The next question was why the government would try so sloppily to cover up such a decision.

The importance of the information that could be provided by DSCOVR is emphasized by the fact that both domestic (the NOAA) and foreign (the Ukrainian government) institutions have offered to buy DSCOVR and pay for it’s launch, so that the information it can provide will be available sooner – or at all, if NASA’s plan is to keep DSCOVR under wraps for good. But to these offers NASA replied with a good kind NOTHING. There was no response, not even a polite No or explanation of why they can't bear to part with a satellite they aren’t using. Without so much as a response to the question of 'why?' it seems we can only assume the worst.

Is the government keeping DSCOVR hidden because it’s afraid of the information it will inevitably retrieve? Is there really such a huge need to keep global warming in the politically golden realm of “still being investigated”? By giving no reason as to why it wasn't launched, denying the release of supposedly free documents, the lack of response to counter offers, and NASA's total lack of comment on the situation, I feel there is little else that we can assume. Furthermore, it’s unclear if we can hope that the next administration will change this decision. It is important that people know about this. I'm begging someone to prove this wrong, particularly with news that DSCOVR is being launched.

I’ve compiled a list of articles and blogs that are writing about DSCOVR. In particular I should point out the efforts of Mitchell Anderson, who has been hounding the DSCOVR issue for more than a year and is the person who initially went after the DSCOVR documents that were denied. Here is a link to one of his articles on the topic, that summarizes the situation with DSCOVR quite well: http://www.desmogblog.com/nasa-stonewalls-
another-us-agency-that-wants-to-launch-dscovr.

Physics Buzz will be writing more on this story next month, so keep you eyes peeled, and please post any other links you find important.


DSCOVR Articles and Blog Entries:

The official NASA website of DSCOVR, not updated since 2001.
http://enso.larc.nasa.gov/triana.html

DSCOVR website through the Scripp's Institution of Oceanography (Not updated since DSCOVR's non-launch):
http://cloud.ucsd.edu/dscovr.html

White House Denies Inquiries over DSCOVR cancellation (Oct.2007)
http://www.goodcleantech.com/2007/10/white_house_denies_inquiries_a.php


Washington Post Article (August 2007)
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/08/22/AR2007082202441.html


Important Comment on the Debate (October 2007)
http://mitchellanderson.blogspot.com/2007/10/dscovr-debacle-part-3.html


The Bush Administration and Al Gore: Where DSCOVR might fit in (October 2007)
http://gristmill.grist.org/story/2007/10/16/101926/97


Blog by a climate modeler from Argonne Ntnl Lab (September 2007)
http://climatespin.blogspot.com/search/label/DSCOVR


BBC Covers DSCOVR’s initial grounding (July 2006):
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/5134022.stm


Scientific Paper about the uses and benefits of DSCOVR:
http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2006cosp...36.1653V


Early DSCOVR blog (September 2006):
http://seedmagazine.com/news/2006/09/free_dscovr.php


One of the early DSCOVR blogs (2006):
http://www.desmogblog.com/anyone-for-a-dscovr-bake-sale


3 comments:

  1. How can we get the main media stream to let the American public know about this travesty!?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Kidnap Dan Rather.

    Hehe...kidding.

    I think until something "newsworthy" happens with DSCOVR, meaning something new about the satellite or newly released information that incriminates someone, that major news networks will leave DSCOVR alone. They'd have to consider it breaking news, but sometimes you never know what they'll run with. I can easily see the headline "Government hides information about Global Warming" but who knows?

    Still, I'm all in favor of writing letters to your congressperson. If someone in the Senate or legislature brought up the issue (or even a presidential candidate!) I think that would catch the media's eye.

    ReplyDelete
  3. The best part about the story is that Francisco Valero of the Scripps Institute was quoted in a November 19th Nature story that it would cost 117 million to get the satellite up and running. The air force even agreed to launch it on one condition, that all the Earth monitoring equipment would be taken off. Now that's entertainment! If it is useless, then we will send it was the gist.
    DannyK
    www.dnasci.net

    ReplyDelete