A Few Things Ill Considered

A layman's take on the science of Global Warming featuring a guide on How to Talk to a Climate Sceptic.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

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From the New York Times in late January:
In several interviews with The New York Times in recent days, Dr. Hansen said it would be irresponsible not to speak out, particularly because NASA's mission statement includes the phrase "to understand and protect our home planet."

From the New York Times today:
In early February, [NASA's mission] statement was quietly altered, with the phrase "to understand and protect our home planet” deleted.

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13 Comments:

  • At July 23, 2006 7:09 AM, Blogger cp said…

    What makes you think of that?? :P

    This is called efficient damage control...

     
  • At July 23, 2006 9:21 AM, Blogger ankh said…

    So, who made the change? Surely there's a paper trail.

    Remember when James Watt had the Department of the Interior seal changed so the white buffalo was moving to the right instead of the left?

    I bet they're going to try to transfer all the climate work from NASA to Homeland Security or FEMA or the national security black budget.

     
  • At July 23, 2006 9:41 AM, Blogger coby said…

    Here's the entire article:

    From 2002 until this year, NASA’s mission statement, prominently featured in its budget and planning documents, read: “To understand and protect our home planet; to explore the universe and search for life; to inspire the next generation of explorers ... as only NASA can.”

    In early February, the statement was quietly altered, with the phrase “to understand and protect our home planet” deleted. In this year’s budget and planning documents, the agency’s mission is “to pioneer the future in space exploration, scientific discovery and aeronautics research.”

    David E. Steitz, a spokesman for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, said the aim was to square the statement with President Bush’s goal of pursuing human spaceflight to the Moon and Mars.

    But the change comes as an unwelcome surprise to many NASA scientists, who say the “understand and protect” phrase was not merely window dressing but actively influenced the shaping and execution of research priorities. Without it, these scientists say, there will be far less incentive to pursue projects to improve understanding of terrestrial problems like climate change caused by greenhouse gas emissions.

    “We refer to the mission statement in all our research proposals that go out for peer review, whenever we have strategy meetings,” said Philip B. Russell, a 25-year NASA veteran who is an atmospheric chemist at the Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif. “As civil servants, we’re paid to carry out NASA’s mission. When there was that very easy-to-understand statement that our job is to protect the planet, that made it much easier to justify this kind of work.”

    Several NASA researchers said they were upset that the change was made at NASA headquarters without consulting the agency’s 19,000 employees or informing them ahead of time.

    Though the “understand and protect” phrase was deleted in February, when the Bush administration submitted budget and planning documents to Congress, its absence has only recently registered with NASA employees.

    Mr. Steitz, the NASA spokesman, said the agency might have to improve internal communications, but he defended the way the change was made, saying it reflected the management style of Michael D. Griffin, the administrator at the agency.

    “Strategic planning comes from headquarters down,” he said, and added, “I don’t think there was any mal-intent or idea of exclusion.”

    The line about protecting the earth was added to the mission statement in 2002 under Sean O’Keefe, the first NASA administrator appointed by President Bush, and was drafted in an open process with scientists and employees across the agency.

    In the National Aeronautics and Space Act, which established the agency in 1958, the first objective of the agency was listed as “the expansion of human knowledge of the earth and of phenomena in the atmosphere and space.”

    And since 1972, when NASA launched the first Landsat satellite to track changes on the earth’s surface, the agency has been increasingly involved in monitoring the environment and as a result has been immersed in political disputes over environmental policy and spending, said W. Henry Lambright, a professor of public administration and political science at Syracuse University who has studied the trend.

    The shift in language echoes a shift in the agency’s budgets toward space projects and away from earth missions, a shift that began in 2004, the year Mr. Bush announced his vision of human missions to the Moon and beyond.

    The “understand and protect” phrase was cited repeatedly by James E. Hansen, a climate scientist at NASA who said publicly last winter that he was being threatened by political appointees for speaking out about the dangers posed by greenhouse gas emissions.

    Dr. Hansen’s comments started a flurry of news media coverage in late January; on Feb. 3, Mr. Griffin issued a statement of “scientific openness.”

    The revised mission statement was released with the agency’s proposed 2007 budget on Feb. 6. But Mr. Steitz said Dr. Hansen’s use of the phrase and its subsequent disappearance from the mission statement was “pure coincidence.”

    Dr. Hansen, who directs the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, a NASA office, has been criticized by industry-backed groups and Republican officials for associating with environmental campaigners and his endorsement of Senator John Kerry in the 2004 presidential election.

    Dr. Hansen said the change might reflect White House eagerness to shift the spotlight away from global warming.

    “They’re making it clear that they have the authority to make this change, that the president sets the objectives for NASA, and that they prefer that NASA work on something that’s not causing them a problem,” he said.

     
  • At July 23, 2006 11:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The old wording sounds cheesy, like something from the original Star Trek series.

     
  • At July 24, 2006 2:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    When you say cheesy, do you mean 'worthy'? I realise that's going out of style, but for the sake of precision....

     
  • At July 24, 2006 2:49 PM, Blogger Glen said…

    I like the new wording much better. The "protect the planet" stuff sounds like mission creep outside NASA's core competence.

    The real change is removing a different part: "to inspire the next generation of explorers ... as only NASA can". NASA's biggest problem in recent years has been insisting on manned missions that have little point other than as an excuse for astronauts to fly around and inspire the next generation of explorers. The shuttle and the space station were boondoggles in the spirit of the old motto.

     
  • At July 25, 2006 8:27 AM, Blogger ankh said…

    Perhaps the intent is to move farther away from having NASA identified as a _civilian_ space agency?

     
  • At July 25, 2006 8:59 AM, Blogger cp said…

    "Protect the planet" is quite ambiguous, now that I think of it. Protect it from what?

     
  • At July 26, 2006 6:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Ourselves. (as if that wasn't already obvious)

     
  • At July 26, 2006 11:13 AM, Blogger Wag the Dog said…

    Not only is it cheesy, but it is a touch arrogant. Must the whole planet rely on an American funded agency for protection? Who appointed them? Can non-Americans rely on Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck to always come to their rescue?

     
  • At July 26, 2006 11:18 AM, Blogger coby said…

    Yes, well perhaps they had it right in the beginning:

    “the expansion of human knowledge of the earth and of phenomena in the atmosphere and space.”

     
  • At July 26, 2006 5:50 PM, Blogger Peter K. Anderson said…

    The study needed to protect 'life as we know it' in it's persistence is in the study the Planetary Dipole and the PRODUCTION of that Dipole in it's process and continuance. It is this process that retains the atmosphere in the manner 'we have grown accustomed to). Without the persistence of the Dipole, atmospheric gases will bleed into Open Space from the 'tail' of the orbiting planet. The reduction in atmospheric pressure (due to mass loss) will create pressure induced evaporation and if this effect was sufficiently rapid, a liquid 'boil' of gas escaping to the atmosphere, then to Space. This planet would end looking 'like Venus'...and perhaps eventually being a 'copy' of the presently observed situation on Venus.

    There is much more needing to be realised about this Planets 'uniqueness' (which is not inclusive of any supposed 'greenhouse effect') or from generalised claims regarding 'protection from ourselves'.

    Notice again the material in the link I give regarding 'Venus':-
    http://www-ssc.igpp.ucla.edu/personnel/russell/papers/venus_mag/
    (with all thanks and notice to the author and references there in included).

    Realise that the Earth travels through space with a little 'trailing tail', with the 'gases' within being retained by this Planet due to those interactions of the Planetary Magnetic Field, incident Energy from Solar Radiation and the upper edges of the Atmosphere. Without the effects of the there-by produced 'ambient Plasma' along with Gravity this 'Planetary Tail' would be lost constantly from effects of many situations also 'in play' constantly, perhaps 'blown away' by the 'Solar Wind' or just left behind due to constantly altering velocity vectors of the Earth's 'Orbital motion, or some combination of these and other 'forces'.

    Realise also that one 'concept' to explain the 'atmospheric density' of Venus was proposing that the 'present' atmosphere of Venus is a production of the reaction to the loss of the 'original atmosphere' as the Planetary Magnetic field reduced to it's present 'practically nil' levels (see above link). The RAPIDITY of that 'field reduction' could, if sufficiently 'rapid', create a 'pressure boil' and the 'new material' could easily increased 'atmospheric density' (due to larger molecules perhaps or simply 'more molecules'). This new 'denser' atmosphere is then able to support higher residual measures of kinetic energy, i.e. the observed 'present' Atmosphere of Venus would be able to support and then display in its 'residual measure' a 'higher temperature'. Greater Turbulence is also observed as the 'total kinetic energy' loaded into the 'present biosphere' of Venus is far greater than the 'temperature' indicates.

    Venus is potentially losing its Atmosphere at a rate related to overall gravity well determinations whilst the Atmospheric density is related to loss of a past planetary 'magnetic dipole'.

    Relationships need to be realised AND noticed of which 'Planets' in this Solar System present 'Earth-like Dipoles'. The CONTINUANCE of 'life as we know it' is NOT in any study of a supposed 'greenhouse effect' or even other Planets and their Atmospheres. The study needed to protect 'life as we know it' in it's persistence is in the study the Planetary Dipole and the PRODUCTION of that Dipole in it's process and continuance.

    The 'terrestrial reforming' of Venus and Mars is near a pointless consideration due the LACK of suitable Dipoles to RETAIN any atmosphere that might be created.

    See http://hartlod.blogspot.com/

    Your's,
    Peter K. Anderson a.k.a. Hartlod(tm)
    From the PC of Peter K Anderson
    E-Mail: Hartlod@bigpond.com

     
  • At August 09, 2006 8:37 AM, Anonymous Mike El said…

    The "To understand and protect our home planet" should never have been added to begin with. It's outside of what should be the mission of NASA. While Climate science and Earth monitoring missions are worthwhile activities, they are not 'exploration'.

    These activities rightly belong outside of NASA (at NOAA) where they can and should be funded separately from Manned and Unmanned planetary exploration. It's silly for Earth monitoring missions to be competing with Mars Rovers, Space stations, etc. NASA's mission should be 'looking outward' and some other agency (NOAA) should be resonsible for 'looking inward', or protecting the Earth.

    Earth orbiting spacecraft design and operations are no longer cutting edge engineering, and don't require NASA.

     

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