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With more missions to Mars and the moon planned, researchers are forgetting the importance of the needs of people on Earth

A recent report done by the National Research Council has found that the U.S. satellite system that monitor's the environment and climate needs on Earth must undergo vast upgrades or scientists may lose ability to accurately forecast hurricanes, severe thunderstorms and winter storms. The report also called for NASA to launch 17 new satellites to launch by 2020. NASA and NOAA now have 25 satellites in orbit that specifically only conduct environmental measurements and observations – however, many of them are working past their initial expected service time.

“This is the most critical time in human history, with the population never before so big and with stresses growing on the Earth,” said Richard Anthes, co-chair on the committee which wrote the report.

The National Research Council of the National Academies also warned that by 2010, the number of instruments on satellites for Earth-observing purposes will be cut by around 40 percent.

The NOAA yearly budget of $1 billion per year for environmental satellites must continue to remain available to the organization. Spending $3 billion per year on new equipment and satellite missions through the year 2020 would sufficiently get Earth-observation back on the level it needs to be, according to space officials.



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RE: This is a cry for more money
By stromgald on 1/18/2007 11:46:59 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
$1B. I agree with the OP: that should be more than enough money to build a few satellites.


Do you realize that it costs about $250 million to build and launch a small geostationary satellite (most NASA satellites are in this category)? And the cost certainly isn't falling, its rising. That's also not even taking into account the amount of money to maintain the dozens of satellites already in orbit. At $1B, I would estimate 2-3 launches for NASA and maybe 1-2 next year.

Also, it's always silly how these articles always post the amount of money involved. $1B seems like alot to any individual, but a satellite takes thousands of people to design, inspect, launch and maintain. How do you expect to pay so many highly trained and educated people on $1B? $1B is only 0.05% of the 2005 US Budget (probably less for 2006). In the 2005 budget, the U.S. spent $30B on the environment, $250B on the Department of Health, and $300B on Medicare. All those are important things, but an extra $1B for the government is like $50 for the common person. It's substantial amount, but not anything most people would loose alot of sleep over.


RE: This is a cry for more money
By Ringold on 1/18/2007 4:34:03 PM , Rating: 2
I agree generally (I think along the same lines for NASA's budget in general when people whine about it), but..

You say costs are rising.. They shouldn't be. All other high-tech items have seen meteoric drops in price over time for a given service. If their costs are rising they need to do what ever needs to be done, like bringing in someone from private industry, to squeeze out inefficiency, since component costs shouldn't be rising. If its launch costs, the private market is starting to step up to the plate with alternatives from the usual launch suspects, offering lower costs.

My knee-jerk reaction would to be to wave the privatization flag, but unfortunately, there's very little profit to be made collecting this sort of data. It's still somewhat important data to be collected, so it falls in the governments realm. That's not an excuse on their part, though, to stand back and eat escalating costs. We pay taxes to get this data, not for some fat-cat no-bid contractor to land an easy job.

Not that I even know if they're facing significantly higher costs, you said it, I'm just responding to that.


RE: This is a cry for more money
By drank12quartsstrohsbeer on 1/18/2007 5:17:25 PM , Rating: 2
Satelites are not something that can be mass produced by low wage workers in a third world country.
Moreover, each satelite put up isn't just a direct replacement for one that has worn out, so there is no way to spread out the R&D costs.

Your attitude may be fine for telephones and washing machines, but it won't work here.


RE: This is a cry for more money
By jayzrobert on 1/18/2007 7:12:38 PM , Rating: 2
before you continue on bashing third world countries. I'd like you to know that 80% of sattelite parts are made from either taiwan, philippines, malaysia.

Also a large number of scientists working on R&D and building those satellites are from asian countries.



RE: This is a cry for more money
By stromgald on 1/18/2007 7:56:40 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
I'd like you to know that 80% of sattelite parts are made from either taiwan, philippines, malaysia.


You pulled that 80% number out of your butt didn't you? That is one of the most ridiculous generalizations that most technology comes from asian countries.

The fact is that the military and government customers dominate a very large portion the satellite market. U.S. government contracts, which probably make up more than 75% of all government satellites, require that all components on a U.S. military satellite be supplied by a U.S. company or go through a ton of red tape.

So, to minimize costs of maintaining 'government' and 'commercial' suppliers, most satellite manufacturers (Boeing, LockMart, Ball, Raytheon, etc.) use closer to 80% U.S. parts .

Unless you're going down to the transistor/capacitor/nut/bolt level, you won't find anything made outside of the U.S. All the circuit boards, thrusters, sensors, and signal processors are built in the U.S. Even the composite/steel structures are built in the U.S. to keep fabrication knowledge within the country.


RE: This is a cry for more money
By stromgald on 1/18/2007 8:06:00 PM , Rating: 2
Well costs have been rising due to the lack of demand for satellites and the nature of the industry. Each satellite is custom built. It's not like an airplane where they design it once and build a few hundred before a redesign. Even satellites within the same block or family are different because even with the same design, technology changes while they're building each one.

For example, DirecTV buys 3 satellites of pretty much the same capacity and design. Boeing starts building the first one. Technology changes, so they want to incorporate the new stuff in satellites 2 and 3. By the time they get to 3, DirecTV wants so much additional stuff, the satellite design just won't handle it easily, and there needs to be a redesign. It's even worse with government satellites. All this leads to cost, which leads to low demand, which again drives up cost.

What the industry needs is a kick in the pants that will double or triple demand. The future does look a little brighter since from 2010-2015 many satellites will be running out of propellant and there will be a significant boom in demand to replace the old ones.


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