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Earth United States Politics

The US Has Destroyed A Critical Sea Ice-Measuring Satellite (scientificamerican.com) 283

"A key polar satellite used to measure the Arctic ice cap failed a few days ago, leaving the U.S. with only three others, and those have lived well beyond their shelf lives," writes long-time Slashdot reader edibobb. The Guardian reports that all three of the remaining satellites "are all beginning to drift out of their orbits over the poles" and will no longer be operational by 2023. This could put an end to nearly 40 years of uninterrupted data on polar ice, notes the original submission, adding "It seems like there would be a backup satellite, right?

"In fact, there was a backup satellite ready to go." The $58 million satellite was dismantled in 2016 when the Republican-controlled Congress cut its funding. (The Guardian reports that many scientists "say this decision was made for purely ideological reasons.") Now Nature reports: The U.S. military is developing another set of weather satellites...but the one carrying a microwave sensor will not launch before 2022. That means that when the current three aging satellites die, the United States will be without a reliable, long-term source of sea-ice data... For now, the the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center is preparing for those scenarios by incorporating data from Japan's AMSR2 microwave sensor into its sea-ice record. Another, more politically fraught option is to pull in data from the China Meteorological Administration's Fengyun satellite series... Since 2011 Congress has banned NASA scientists from working with Chinese scientists -- but not necessarily from using Chinese data. One final possibility is finding a way to launch the passive-microwave sensor that scientists at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory salvaged from the dismantled DMSP satellite. The sensor currently sits at the Aerospace Corporation in El Segundo, California, where researchers are trying to find a way to get it into orbit.
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The US Has Destroyed A Critical Sea Ice-Measuring Satellite

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 06, 2017 @07:39AM (#55498055)
    The science of climate change is already settled. The only question is how bad will it be. Without data from this satalite we should just assume the worst and raise carbon taxes appropriately. What is the worst the could happen, we accidentally end up with a better world?
    • What is the worst the could happen, we accidentally end up with a better world?

      Go read "The Caryatids", by Bruce Sterling.

  • Destroyed? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jeremyp ( 130771 )

    So one failed, three more are failing and one had its funding cut. Where's the destroyed one of the headline?

    • Re:Destroyed? (Score:4, Informative)

      by samwichse ( 1056268 ) on Monday November 06, 2017 @07:48AM (#55498099)

      I assume they're talking about this:

      "In fact, there was a backup satellite ready to go." The $58 million satellite was dismantled in 2016 when the Republican-controlled Congress cut its funding."

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by WindBourne ( 631190 )
        Except that the sat was NOT dismantled. The program was.
        The sat is sitting on ice, so to speak, and ready to go.
        • Re:Destroyed? (Score:5, Informative)

          by angel'o'sphere ( 80593 ) on Monday November 06, 2017 @09:29AM (#55498635) Journal

          Except that the satellite _WAS_ dismantled and its microwave sensor is now somewhere in south america.

          • Re:Destroyed? (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Monday November 06, 2017 @12:59PM (#55500203)
            This is why so many people don't take global warming seriously. Because its proponents resort to cheap tricks like deliberately choosing a word whose common definition makes the situation sound more dire than what actually happened ("destroy - put an end to the existence of (something) by damaging or attacking it."), when they mean one of its lesser-used definitions.

            If you practice deceptions and exaggerations like this too often, eventually people stop believing you [wikipedia.org] even when the emergency is real. And that's exactly what's happened with global warming.
            • I think that already happened with racism, news in general, and even Nazis. It's bad enough that you put up a poster that says "it's OK to be white" or "all lives matter" and it's a problem. The end is getting pretty near.
            • This is why so many people don't take global warming sceptics seriously. They only hear what they want to hear, only remember what they want to remember, even if they have to invent it, and then accuse the other side of deception.
            • Because its proponents resort to cheap tricks like deliberately choosing a word whose common definition makes the situation sound more dire than what actually happened

              I'm sorry, do you need a safe space where you don't have to deal with such language issues?

            • by Altrag ( 195300 )

              And if you don't use hyperbole, people won't have to disbelieve you since they won't be paying attention at all in our current era of "ooh shiny!" sensationalized media.

    • by dywolf ( 2673597 )

      the one that had its funding cut.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      The backup one that they dismantled was "destroyed", in the sense that it no longer exists.

  • by GuB-42 ( 2483988 ) on Monday November 06, 2017 @08:06AM (#55498183)

    The US are not the only country to put things in space.
    Japan, Europe and China also have appropriate satellites, as mentioned in the article. It is not like measurements will stop just because the US lost some satellites. It may make exploitation a bit more difficult because of the differences in design but aggregating data is something that has to be done eventually. Climate science is an international matter.
    The US plans to launch new satellites in a few years anyways. So they didn't drop the ball entirely.

    • >Japan, Europe and China also have appropriate satellites, as mentioned in the article.

      Which seems wasteful to me. Monitoring the planet (for non-military / intelligence reasons) seems like a natural mandate for the UN. (Or maybe a non-political equivalent)

      Let scientists around the world decide what needs to be monitored, and use the UN as an umbrella operation to get the required systems in place. Go to RFP and let the country that can meet the specs for the least money (including guaranteed system lif

      • Re:A US centric view (Score:5, Interesting)

        by religionofpeas ( 4511805 ) on Monday November 06, 2017 @09:09AM (#55498475)

        Which seems wasteful to me

        It's called redundancy, not just physical satellites, but also redundancy in ideas, technology, and methods of data processing. Also, every big nation launching their own satellites means they can pursue their own ideas, without endless committee meetings. Plus, if there's only one type of satellite, designed by a single party, then there will be even more conspiracies about how the data is manipulated.

        I mean, we're talking about $100 million for a satellite that lasts a decade. That's what we pay for a football coach.

      • Or maybe a non-political equivalent
        Research institutions in the EU are non political ...

        and supply the results to any nation that's not in arrears with the UN.
        Climate research results are distributed free of charge by all research institutes since decades ... everyone working in that has signed an international treaty.

        • If only raw data was distributed, we might be able to figure out which dark smelly place 'the hockey stick' was pulled from.

      • They'll make the commission running the satellites into a political show and ruin the whole thing. It'll be like the blinding success of the UN Commission on Civil Rights.

        • While other replies to my post have been more informative, yours is the most depressingly and most likely dead-on accurate response.

      • by ghoul ( 157158 )

        People are political animals. Thye like to play politics (and bitch about how the politicians are spoiling everything). If countries were not competing than bureaus within the UN would be and you would have different satellites launched by the FAO, WHO and International Met Buruea.

  • by fygment ( 444210 ) on Monday November 06, 2017 @08:14AM (#55498223)

    The spin on the story suggests Congress purposely cut funding to that satellite for ideological reasons (in the opinion of 'many' scientists). Go to the link and it becomes clear that the program had been very poorly managed and half a billion had been spent on the satellite PLUS the manager (the Air Force) is already working on follow-on programs.

    So really what was the intent of this post? To make it seem like this was part of a Republican anti-science/climate change denial effort?
    Actually the story should be: under the previous administration the Air Force was permitted to mismanage a publicly funded project to the tune of +$500 million dollars and finally Congress stopped the pouring of more money in to the project.

  • Bad at math? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    So the existing satellites go out of service in 2023, and the Air Force satellite will go up in 2022.

    How does this equate to "we will no longer have the ability to measure sea ice?"

    • So the existing satellites go out of service in 2023, and the Air Force satellite will go up in 2022.

      That's only 1 year of sensor overlap, which is really short if you want to make sure that the results are close enough that you can seamlessly extend the records.

      Also, the 2023 date depends on the satellites not failing for unexpected reasons.

  • There is nothing in this that says that we destroyed a sat.
    It simply says that the GOP is trying to block launch of replacement (stupid, but not the same as destroying it).
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 06, 2017 @08:59AM (#55498417)

      Please learn to read the full article - after the funding was lost, the satellite that was ready to be launched, was scrapped. In the process it was dismantled and some useful parts, salvaged, but the satellite that was to be a replacement for the failing ones, is GONE! DISMANTLED - DISASSEMBLED! In other words destroyed.

  • by Ol Olsoc ( 1175323 ) on Monday November 06, 2017 @09:09AM (#55498479)
    The US has for too long used Government resources for weather related issues.

    No more of these expensive satellites! Free market rules tell us we'll get our weather information from the Weather Channel just like everyone else.

  • >> leaving the U.S. with only three others

    First world problems FTW
  • by millertym ( 1946872 ) on Monday November 06, 2017 @11:54AM (#55499747)

    Really Slashdot? Headline hardly does justice to the complexity and thought of the issue found within the linked article. 1800s yellow news papers would be proud.

    If your spare satellite program is being ran in such an utterly inefficient and wasteful way, there is some real sense to shutting the program down. Especially with alternates coming on-line within a few years.

  • Ray Spencer comments (Score:4, Informative)

    by sl149q ( 1537343 ) on Monday November 06, 2017 @12:49PM (#55500131)

    For more information from Ray Spencer....

    "But as NASA’s leader of the U.S. Science Team on one of the best satellite instruments developed for monitoring sea ice, I can tell you we will not lose our ability to monitor sea ice.

    Admittedly, the premature failure of the Defense Department’s DMSP F17 and F19 satellites has definitely reduced the number of times a day we can measure the polar regions."

    http://www.drroyspencer.com/20... [drroyspencer.com]

    • by sl149q ( 1537343 )

      And ...

      "While climate caterwaulers are ridiculously complaining the Trump administration is blocking new Earth observing satellites from being launched, we find one is on the launch schedule for November 10th.
      From NOAA –
      The launch of JPSS-1, the first in a series of NOAA’s four next-generation operational polar-orbiting weather satellites that will give scientists the most advanced tools to aid in weather forecasting and earth observations, is scheduled for November 10 at 1:47 a.m. PST from Vand

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