Fresh documents accessed from the US government show the George Bush had a direct hand in killing the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR).
In one of three badly redacted letters - released after a delay more than three times longer than the legal limit - NASA's Associate Administrator for Earth Science, Ghassem Asrar, says: "Due to Space Shuttle manifesting constraints recently directed by the President, the DSCOVR mission is currently without a launch opportunity” (my emphasis).
This critical spacecraft was designed to monitor the energy budget of the planet from the unique vantage of 1 million miles away. NASA strangely canceled 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.”
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: How NASA lied about this mission to the media.