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The Daily Need

Climate observer mothballed

The world’s most advanced climate observer has been on ice for almost a decade. In a feature for Popular Science‘s April 2011 issue, writer Bill Donahue tracks down the earth-monitoring satellite DSCVR (Deep Space Climate Observatory) that was supposed to be launched back in 2001. He finds the $100 million device stowed in a Maryland warehouse — a probable victim of politics and inter-agency bureaucracy.

Standing in a small, carpeted nook, I was able to look through a small observation window into a high-ceilinged, white-walled clean room where a white metal crate was shoved into a corner, beneath a stairwell. DSCOVR sat inside. A green tube supplied the box with a steady feed of nitrogen, to minimize contaminants. It looked to me like forgotten hardware—last year’s cellphone gathering dust in a desk drawer.

The Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR)

DSCVR isn’t the only climate satellite with problems: Donahue’s piece refers to the “delayed” Glory project but doesn’t mention that it actually crashed in a failed launch attempt last month. And in 2009, the OCO (Orbiting Carbon Observatory) satellite similarly succumbed to mechanical defects and was lost before reaching orbit.

A new climate research satellite — the OCO-2 — is slated for launch early in 2013, but given current budget negotiations and a push from House Republicans to slash federally-funded climate change research, OCO-2 may find itself relegated to another government warehouse.

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  • Douglas Starke

    Our tax money at work!

  • Anonymous

    This is so sad and so irritating. We must sweep the Luddites aside and get on with scientific progress.

  • Phill272003

    When politics interferes with science, we are all truly screwed!

  • Jen Otis

    We’re not the only country with satellites, ya know. The European Union has a pretty awesome satellite up there called Envisat that has a number of different sensors used to monitor the environment. Scientists here can use that data, if they pay for it.

  • Joe Villanova

    Our Tax money at work.

  • chase3z

    For accuracy you need more than one source of real time data. Suspect data is what lead to all the controversy on the whole hole in the ozone/ global warming thing in the first place. Political types, no matter the party, don’t want accurate data, they want skewed data and a fearful populace. Keeps people looking at the wrong things and NOT what they’ve been up to.

  • Susanj2

    So sad that politics can trump scientific research.

  • Geopat129

    watch them launch that baby if some senators.or congressmans house gets leveled due to a tornado or hurricane !!!

  • Robert44350

    And Michelle Bachman stood on the House floor giving an oration about how carbon dioxide was a naturally occuring element and she “hasn’t seen one study to prove it isn’t.” As if there’s anybody with a high school diploma that wouldn’t arleady think so. She’s too stupid to know that 176 countries signed a treaty to reduce that naturally occuring element in the atmosphere because every year there’s tons more of it in the atmosphere than the year before. Only in Republican America is climate change a hoax. Either the rest of the world has got it wrong or Republicans/ Tea Partiers do.

  • Anonymous

    Was it suspect data or a fossil fuel industry propaganda campaign?