Decadal Study-Request for Information (RFI) from Community


 To: Members of the Earth and Environmental Science Community

 From: Rick Anthes and Berrien Moore

 Date: 25 January 2005


 As you may know, the Space Studies Board, in consultation with other units of the National Research Council (NRC), has begun a study to generate prioritized recommendations from the Earth and environmental science and applications community regarding a systems approach to the space-based and ancillary observations that encompasses the research programs of NASA and the related operational programs of NOAA.  The study will also consider such cross-agency issues such as the development of an operational capability for land remote sensing.


 The study, which will be carried out over a two-year period and organized in a manner similar to other NRC “decadal surveys,” seeks to establish plans and priorities within the sub-disciplines of the Earth sciences as well as an integrated vision and plan for the Earth sciences as a whole.  It will also consider Earth observations requirements for research and for a range of applications with direct links to societal objectives.  We have been appointed by the NRC as study co-chairs.


 An open web site ( has been created to describe the study and to provide an opportunity for community input throughout the study process.  In addition, a number of outreach activities are planned, including community forums in conjunction with the fall 2004 and 2005 AGU meetings and the January 2005 and 2006 meetings of the American Meteorological Society.


 In order to obtain the greatest possible input of ideas from the community about potential mission concepts addressing Earth Science research and applications, we are soliciting input from the broad community.  We are especially seeking ideas for missions or programs that are directly linked to societal needs and benefits.


 The ideas and concepts received will be reviewed by one or more of the Survey’s seven study panels, which are addressing the following themes:

 1.       Earth Science Applications and Societal Needs

 2.       Land-use Change, Ecosystem Dynamics, and Biodiversity

 3.       Weather (including chemical weather and space weather) 

 4.       Climate Variability and Change

 5.       Water Resources and the Global Hydrologic Cycle

 6.       Human Health and Security

 7.       Solid-Earth Hazards, Resources, and Dynamics

 Based on their potential to contribute to research and/or applications and societal needs, each panel may select one or more of the concepts for further technical and cost assessments.  The Panels will recommend, in priority order, a number of proposed missions for carrying out over the period 2005-2015, taking into account a set of established criteria as described below.  The Executive Committee of the Decadal Study will interleave the Panel Recommendations, to produce a final set of recommended missions, in priority order.


 Three categories of missions are solicited, following the approximate total (over lifetime of mission) cost guidelines:

 1.       Small missions that cost less than $200 M.

 2.       Medium size missions that cost between $200 M and $500 M.

 3.       Large missions that cost more than $500 M.

 Each of the proposed missions may contribute to research or operations, or both.  Note: Mission costs refer to costs that would be incurred by NASA in current (FY05) dollars.


 We invite you to write a concept paper for a new space-based mission or measurement, from existing or new vantage points, that promises to advance an existing or new scientific objective, contribute to fundamental understanding of the Earth system, and/or facilitate the connection between Earth observations and societal needs.  We anticipate concepts that will range from free-flying spacecraft to instruments that might be included in follow-ons or as additions to the NPOESS and GOES series of spacecraft.  Constellations of spacecraft or spacecraft that fly in formation with existing, planned, or future satellites may also be considered.


 All responses will be considered non-proprietary public information for distribution with attribution.  The concept papers should be no longer than ten pages in length and provide the following information, if possible:

 1.       A summary of the mission concept, including the observational variable(s) to be measured, the characteristics of the measurement if known (accuracy, horizontal, vertical and temporal resolution), and domain of the Earth system (e.g. troposphere, upper-ocean, land surface).

 2.       A description of how the proposed mission will help advance Earth science and/or applications, or provide a needed operational capability, for the next decade and beyond.

 3.       A rough estimate of the total cost (large, medium, or small as defined above) of the proposed mission over ten years.  For operational missions the costs should include one-time costs associated with building the instrument and launch and ongoing operational costs.

 4.       A description of how the proposed mission meets one or more of the following criteria, which will be used to evaluate and prioritize the candidate proposals:



a.      Identified as a high priority or requirement in previous studies, for example NRC and WMO reports and existing planning efforts such as the International Working Group on Earth Observations (IWGEO: );

 b.      Makes a significant contribution to more than one of the seven Panel themes;

 c.      Contributes to important scientific questions facing Earth sciences today (scientific merit, discovery, exploration);

 d.      Contributes to applications and/or policy making (operations, applications, societal benefits);

 e.      Contributes to long-term monitoring of the Earth;

 f.       Complements other observational systems;

 g.      Affordable (cost-benefit);

 h.      Degree of readiness (technical, resources, people);

 i.        Risk mitigation and strategic redundancy (backup of other critical systems);

 j.        Fits with other national and international plans and activities.

 Describe each proposed mission in terms of its contributions to science and applications, how the mission meets the above prioritization criteria, its benefits to society, technical aspects, schedule and rough estimate of costs.  The description should provide enough detail that the potential value and feasibility of the mission can be evaluated by an independent group of experts.


 For full consideration, please submit the concept paper by April 15, 2005 via e-mail to: .  Questions about the RFI may be directed to the study director, Art Charo (, or to us: (; (  You can also contact Dr. Charo by telephone at 202 334-3477, or by fax at 202 334-3701.