NASA Slated To Receive Billions To Study Earth A White House budget proposal for NASA includes billions of dollars to pay for tools to study Earth-bound problems, such as climate change. At the top of the space agency's list: replacing aging and damaged satellites that monitor ocean temperatures and atmospheric chemicals.
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NASA Slated To Receive Billions To Study Earth

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NASA Slated To Receive Billions To Study Earth

NASA Slated To Receive Billions To Study Earth

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STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

NPR's Jon Hamilton has the story.

JON HAMILTON: Edward Weiler, of NASA's Science Mission Directorate, says things have changed dramatically since the arrival of the Obama administration.

EDWARD WEILER: This administration has a clear priority for science in general, and Earth science in specific.

HAMILTON: Weiler says much of the new money will be spent trying to reinvigorate efforts to determine how fast the Earth's climate is changing.

WEILER: We know there's a threat. We know there's climate change going on. What we got to do now is monitor the rate. We've got to measure how fast the ice is being depleted, how fast carbon dioxide is being added to the atmosphere versus being taken out of it.

HAMILTON: Scientists think carbon dioxide from sources like cars and power plants is the most important contributor to global warming. But Michael Freilich, of NASA's Earth Science Division, says they still don't know much about what happens to carbon dioxide once it gets into the atmosphere.

MICHAEL FREILICH: In order to figure out where it's going, how it's being exchanged between the atmosphere and the ocean, and the atmosphere and the land, you have to make a whole variety of measurements.

HAMILTON: The new funding will also allow NASA to replace twin satellites called GRACE that have been making detailed measurements of the Earth's gravity field since 2002. That may sound like something only science wonks would care about, but Weiler says GRACE has proved to have many more practical applications than anyone expected.

WEILER: As if flies over something like the San Joaquin Valley, it could measure the amount of water underground. And since it's been flying for a long time, it's been able to trace how much groundwater is there. And what it's showing is that the groundwater is disappearing more quickly than it's been replenished.

HAMILTON: Jon Hamilton, NPR News.

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