Douglas Isbell Headquarters, Washington, DC (Phone: 202/358-1753

)

August 21, 1997

Jim Sahli Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD (Phone: 301/286-8955) RELEASE: 97-180 MAJOR REVIEW OF MISSION TO PLANET EARTH ENDORSES FLEXIBLE APPROACH TO FUTURE SATELLITES, STEERS DATA SYSTEM DEVELOPMENT The design process for the second and third generation of NASA's planned Earth Observing System satellites will be structured to make key decisions as late as possible in order to take best advantage of the latest science and most advanced technology available, according to a comprehensive review of the agency's Mission to Planet Earth enterprise. The recently completed review also provided important guidance on how to phase in the deployment of the Earth Observing System (EOS) ground data system, and validated the basic plan for the first EOS atmospheric chemistry mission. The recommendations stem from the first Mission to Planet Earth (MTPE) Biennial Review, conducted internally and then assessed by an independent external panel in response to a NASA commitment to perform such a top-to-bottom review of the enterprise every two years. "We were impressed with the amount of enthusiasm, effort and hard thinking that went into the internal process," said Dr. Pamela Matson of the University of California at Berkeley, chair of the MTPE independent external review panel. "We believe the outcome will be an improved ability for the program to take advantage of new scientific insights, technological advances and partnering opportunities." The goal of the EOS program is to support the maturing discipline of Earth system science by providing precise, comprehensive measurements of Earth's land, oceans, atmosphere and ice cover. Originally organized around three series of identical, large space-based platforms designed to address a wide range of

scientific objectives, EOS has been evolving toward smaller, more evolutionary satellites tied to 24 specific measurements. The results of the biennial review consolidate this evolution into a philosophy of flexible mission designs that will grow from progress in the five major MTPE science themes: land-cover and land-use change, seasonal climate variability, long-term climate change, atmospheric ozone, and natural hazards such as hurricanes and earthquakes. "This is a major shift in the conduct of this enterprise," said William Townsend, acting associate administrator for the Mission to Planet Earth. "We are committed to meeting the measurement needs of our five science themes in the future through a combination of commercial off-the-shelf spacecraft and aggressive science instrument technology development. This will enable us to delay each post-2002 satellite procurement substantially, which allows us to learn more from ongoing missions and cut the time each mission stays in the development phase to three years or less." In the footsteps of a February 1996 recommendation from the NASA Advisory Council to consider fundamental changes in the EOS Data and Information System (EOSDIS), the Biennial Review process also produced a plan to phase in higher-level processing of measurements from the first EOS spacecraft, called AM-1, following its scheduled June 1998 launch. Such processing, which adds extra parameters to the basic calibrated data, would be done on a selected 25 percent of the data to start and ramp up to 100 percent over the next three years. Decisions on which data sets to process will be made by a resources board composed of EOS users, chaired by the project scientist, in close coordination with the EOS science teams. "We strongly support the need for a targeted reduction in processing requirements," Matson said. "If done well, it will almost surely not negatively affect the science program, and will result in substantial savings that can be utilized in components of EOSDIS or the science program that turns the data into scientific understanding." The EOS project office at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD, and its industrial partner Hughes Information Technology Co., Landover, MD, will conduct an important readiness

demonstration of the initial EOSDIS Core System in late August. The demonstration will show critical system functions for acquiring, archiving, processing, and distributing test data from two instruments on the AM-1 spacecraft, and for archiving and distributing data from the upcoming Landsat-7 mission. For nearly a year, NASA has researched multi-spacecraft alternatives to the plan to purchase the first EOS Chemistry satellite (Chem-1) from TRW Space and Technology Group, Redondo Beach, CA, as part of a pair with the second EOS spacecraft, called PM-1. Due for launch in December 2002, Chem-1 carries four science instruments designed to study the transport and transformation of key atmospheric chemicals and particulates. The NASA Advisory Council and the Biennial Review panel also agreed on the need for the MTPE enterprise to focus more effort on infusing new technology into the EOS missions to follow Chem-1. "There appears to be a commitment among MTPE managers to technology development based on science needs," Matson said. "We strongly support that requirement." "There will be no technology development in the Mission To Planet Earth enterprise unless it is directly related to our science needs, which in many ways reverses our old way of doing business," Townsend said. In its more general findings, the external Biennial Review panel expressed support for the principal investigator-driven approach to new small spacecraft missions under the NASA Earth System Science Pathfinder program, and it recommended an increase in MTPE research and analysis funding. "With the Biennial Review completed and its results being incorporated into the program, this program is well positioned for the future," Townsend said. "We're looking forward to a very exciting 12 months of launches and data collection opportunities, including the start of operations for the SEAWIFS ocean color sensor and pending launches of the Lewis spacecraft, the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission and the first missions of the EOS era," Townsend said. A summary of the MTPE Biennial Review results and the full letter report of the independent external review panel are available on the Internet at the following URL:

http://www.hq.nasa.gov/office/mtpe/whats_news/bi_review.html -end-