The ‘Satellite Crisis’

Jun 5, 2007 9:40pm

The false-color image here (click to enlarge) is of Tropical Cyclone Gonu, a storm far from the U.S. but close to a place where the U.S. certainly has interests: the Arabian Sea, just downstream of the Persian Gulf.  The picture happens to come from the QuikSCAT satellite, which has been in orbit since 1999.  This is the one over which a small political war is raging. (Click HERE for more.) A group called Climate Science Watch has obtained, and leaked, a report on how the government has scaled back its plans to replace aging Earth-observation satellites–QuikSCAT in particular–when they die.  QuikSCAT ought to have lasted 3-5 years; it’s been going for eight. Satellites do sometimes last remarkably long; the Hubble Telescope, operational since 1990, is a prime example.  But there have been four shuttle missions to service it, with a fifth in the works.  QuikSCAT won’t get such treatment; at some point–perhaps tomorrow, perhaps years from now–it will give out, and climate scientists, including many who work for federal agencies, would like to continue to get the readings it provides.  Does this really represent some lack of commitment from the government?  Or just budget realities? 

You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus