Political egos freeze satellite and science

Christiaan Patterson

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One of the key reasons we argue about the existence of global warming is the lack of solid evidence and political blocks.
Being able to observe the Earth from a further distance in space could aid in fitting together more pieces of this complicated puzzle. Therefore, politicians need to butt out of concepts beyond their comprehension level and allow scientists to do their jobs.
In 1998, physicist Francisco Valero invented a satellite named Triana (later renamed the Deep Space Climate Observatory or DSCOVR), which was designed to track the effects of climate change. Two ways it would do this was by measuring levels of atmospheric aerosols, ozone, etc. and constantly monitoring earth’s albedo.
Albedo is a major factor to understanding climate change since it is the amount of sunlight that is absorbed into the earth and how much is reflected back into space. With rising amounts of water vapor, aerosols and ozone, this sunlight is being trapped and re-directed back to the surface, causing global temperatures to gradually rise.
Unfortunately, the Bush administration cancelled the launch of DSCOVR in 2001 and it was placed in cold storage with constant nitrogen being fed into the box to prevent contamination. To this day, it’s still sitting in that box.
One reason it was never launched was due to its association with Al Gore, who was an advocate for its deployment. After the presidential election in 2000, of course President Bush wasn’t going to continue with his opponents’ plan – that would be non-politician-like.
Just to clear something up, it was not the lack of funds for this launch that kept DSCOVR from heading 930,000 miles into orbit. It was quite literally on its way to the launch pad with $100 million in funding, when Bush pulled the plug.
Things were looking hopeful in 2009 when the Obama administration budgeted $9 million for DSCOVR to bring it up to date and support its launch. NASA officials said the launch could happen by 2014 if the Air Force and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration can come up with the remaining $125 million needed to determine the fate of this satellite.
Recently, it became clear that NOAA and the Air Force wish to launch DSCOVR but not for its original intention of monitoring climate change. A recent article by Bill Donahue in Popular Science magazine reported they are looking at using it to monitor the effects of the sun’s rays on electronic equipment on Earth. It seems that changing the purpose of this satellite is the only way to grasp approval from our discordant government.
It truly is frustrating that scientists are trying to figure out what is happening to our planet but are being thrown back by political red tape. Imagine if political egos hadn’t shut down the first launch in 2001, we could have had a decade’s worth of data on the extent of climate change. Perhaps this would have been enough to convince more members on Capitol Hill to place environmental issues at the forefront.
As of February 2011, $47 million had been requested by the White House to launch DSCOVR in order to observe space weather and warn of severe solar flare. However, after the federal budget mayhem last week, serious doubts are being cast upon our leaders to follow through.