WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is proposing dusting off and finally launching an old environmental satellite championed by Al Gore but shelved a dozen years by his 2000 rival George W. Bush.
Obama proposed Wednesday spending nearly $35 million in his 2014 budget to refurbish a satellite, nicknamed GoreSat by critics, that’s been sitting in storage after it was shelved in 2001, months after Bush took office. It cost about $100 million by then with NASA’s internal auditors faulting its cost increases.
In 1998, Gore, then vice president, proposed the idea of a satellite that would head nearly 1 million miles out in deep space in a special gravity balancing area between Earth and the Sun. The satellite would gaze at Earth, beam down a continuous picture of our planet and take what scientists said was needed climate change measurements.
It originally was named Triana after the sailor on Christopher Columbus’s crew who first sighted land in the Americas. NASA later changed its name to Deep Space Climate Observatory or DISCOVR. But it often got called GoreSat by opponents who called it an expensive screensaver for the vice president.
Readers may recall this comment from “DAV” on WUWT:
Al has claimed to be American technology’s biggest boon (invented the Internet donchya know) yet was almost solely responsible for the Triana spacecraft (aka GoreSat in some circles now known as DSCOVR). The only spacecraft conceived without a mission — in a Lagrangian orbit no less. Al’s idea essentially: we should have a camera in orbit constantly looking at the Earth. You should have seen the scrambling to find things for it to do. The final mission instrument complement was all after the fact add-on. When it comes to technology I think Al is clueless.
What misleads Al isn’t the “consensus” so much as belief in his own ability to forecast the direction of the wind.
Disclosure: I worked on Triana.
Given that it is now more than a decade old, I wonder if the technology is even worth launching?
The satellite’s original purpose was to provide a near-continuous view of the entire Earth and make that live image available via the Internet. Gore hoped not only to advance science with these images, but also to raise awareness of the Earth itself, updating the influential The Blue Marble photograph taken by Apollo 17.
Yeah, “expensive screensaver” about covers it.
UPDATE: Further investigation reveals this might have some value after all, and while Mr. Gore might get his screensaver we might also get a solar warning system. Maybe this spacecraft finally has a mission:
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration would manage the DSCOVR mission as an operational sentinel to give notice of approaching solar storms with potentially calamitous consequences for terrestrial electrical grids, communications, GPS navigation, air travel, satellite operations and human spaceflight.
“The FY2012 funds would support the refurbishment of an existing NASA satellite, DSCOVR,” said Jane Lubchenco, NOAA’s administrator. “This acquisition will allow NOAA to continue to receive vital data to help anticipate and mitigate space weather damage, which could potentially result in costs to the United States of $1 to $2 trillion.”
NASA’s Advanced Composition Explorer, launched in 1997, is the only spacecraft currently providing short-term warnings of geomagnetic storms. ACE is also stationed at the L1 point, giving forecasters about a 40-minute warning of approaching solar events that could disrupt life and economic activity on Earth.
ACE is operating 12 years beyond its design life and could fail at any time.
Replacing ACE would be of value, the question is will this repurposed spacecraft do the job adequately?