DSCOVR / Triana / Goresat

The title tells you what I’m going to say, doesn’t it? Ah well.

Desmogblog seems to have gone hyperbolic: Dr. Robert L. Park, a professor of physics at the University of Maryland, was more blunt about the importance of DSCOVR’s data: “Not knowing may kill us.” He is on record as stating that sending DSCOVR to L1 is “the most important thing we could be doing in space right now.”. And “Project leader Dr. Francisco P. J. Valero, of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, described the mission as “an urgent necessity”.” Weeeell… you would expect the project leader to be in favour of it, wouldn’t you.

I don’t really know how useful DSCOVR would be. There seems to be general agreement that Gore dreamt it up as a giant space webcam, but that it got more sensible as time went on. Whether its worth launching and maintaining is another matter. After all, the tagline at DSB is The scientific evidence is clear, global warming is happening, our continued burning of fossil fuels (i.e. oil, gas and coal) is to blame and we should be very concerned about the consequences. which is fair enough, so why do we need to spend more on detecting it :-?

mt speaks for it, but not strongly. How about reversing his argument: just because conservatives hate it, should we be in favour of it?

Eli pointed out some interesting science to be done with it, but interesting as it might be its hardly life-or-death.

The Triana folk seem to lean on a NAS review which was supposedly good. Skimming it, I’m less sure. Of course, they have nice words to say about it. But Triana is described as an exploratory mission to develope new tech, rather than a specific science investigation. They also worry about the costs of data processing. And it is (was) only scheduled to last for 2 years.


  1. #1 Eli Rabett

    Well, on the science side getting something out to L2 and parked is a real tour-de-force. The orbital dynamics are astoundingly interesting, for example, the Webb telescope will have to use a chaotic orbit once out there. You can’t just leave the thing stationary (google Ed Belbruno if you want to know more about this).

    On the other hand, this touches on an issue you and I sometimes discuss, some people know what is important instinctively, and others always get the wrong answers no matter how much they know. A lot decisions are arrived at at subliminal levels. Gore has a golden touch with technology/science issues and a really good record of being right on political issues, and yes, he is not a scientist, so I listen to his choices. If you are going to look for recommendations it pays to listen to people who got most of their previous wonkery right.

    Putting something out there so that it can look back at the earth has both a scientific and a policy value. If you doubt the later, look at the iconic effect that the original blue marble pictures taken from lunar orbit had.

    [A double-edged compliment, I’d say. If the most notable thing on the science side is the orbit when its out there then I’m not impressed :-) As for the “golden touch”… obviously, this isn’t an argument that would work with the republicans. And its too late for winning the argument anyway: the thing is cancelled. I suspect, if you dig deeply (as DSB is trying to) you’d find the cancellation was mired in politics. But then so was the inception.

    So the issue (from my view) that is interesting is, was the thing sufficiently scientifcally interesting to deserve launch? Alas, just “trust Gore” or “hate Gore” isn’t an answer to that.

    Did you look at the NAS report? You’re probably more used to their language. It didn’t sound enthusiastic to me – what do you think?

    Oh, and I’m not familiar enough with his record to agree or not with “Gore has a golden touch with technology/science issues and a really good record of being right on political issues” – can I suggest you blog that? -W]

  2. #2 Michael Tobis

    Is it cancelled or just mothballed?

    If the French are really willing to launch it, it seems likely that there is some demand for the information. Direct measurement of albedo seems useful enough alone. Sometimes a scalar series can be an important constraint.

    I’m inclined to think that the sunk costs should win the day unless it’s a spectacularly bad idea, in which case we should be asking why such a very bad idea got funded in the first place.

    The real issue is the effectiove abandonment of earth observation as a NASA priority. One might ask, in turn, why it is the US’s responsibiltiy to do everything in this regard. In fact, though, if the French are willing to launch it, maybe they’ll be willing to maintain it.

    Something really does seem odd about this. I’m willing to be convinced that the consequence of the oddity is that the mission should be scrubbed, and perhaps DeSmog aren’t the ones to figure this out, but I’d really like to hear the whole story.

    [I think you’re right about the real issue: earth obs in general. Re the french launching it… note that the NAS were specifically concerned about the costs of data processing, so a free launch might not be enough, as ?Eli? already said -W]

  3. #3 Eli Rabett

    No, the orbit is the difficulty, that and the fact that you can lift a lot less weight, so the satellite has to be smaller or the launcher bigger. That and keeping anything calibrated.

    As to blogging what Gore has said and done, there is a pro on the job, Bob Somerby at the Daily Howler

    As to earth observation and Europe, I would suggest that someone is not very familiar with what is up there

  4. #4 Michael Tobis

    In case you didn’t know, Bob Park has no vested interest in DSCOVR, and has been blogging not only since before there were blogs but since before there was a web (1987 to be specific).

    His points on the DSCOVR matter are linked here:


    Bio here:


  5. #5 Luboš Motl

    I would expect you to write some more original and meaningful comments than just reviewing the opinions of others – that are clearly not too excited so far because no one has so far determined what the prophet’s dream could be good for besides a screensaver that doesn’t need too many programmers and besides doing the albedo measurements by CERES once more.

  6. #6 Sam-Hec

    having DSCOVR would serve to objectively observe the amount of energy leaving the earth’s daylight surface; aka albedo. It would simlutaneously be measuring the energies from the Sun, particularly since it would be ouside the Earths Magnetosphere. So it mesures how much energy the Earth is conserving via land use changes and greenhouse gasses, ice cover etc.

    It would also help calibrate pre-existing means of measuring temperatrue and albedo etc., but with much more precision; this would allow us to look at old observations and proxies with renewed clarity.

  7. #7 Luboš Motl

    Dear Sam-Hec, thanks. Could you be more specific? Take CERES that measures albedo today.


    What is the advantage of the information from DSCOVR, how much more accurate DSCOVR is supposed to be, and why do you need more accurate numbers even though the numbers today are already much more accurate than what we can theoretically explain or meaningfully use?

    Are you serious that Earth’s magnetosphere changes the amount of energy that goes through space? Do you agree that the energy from the Sun is almost entirely coming in the form of photons and photons are electrically neutral and not deflected by the magnetic field? Do you have any doubts that there is 1321-1412 W/m^2 of solar energy (depending on our distance from the Sun) regardless whether you’re inside Earth’s magnetosphere or not?

    The short text you wrote seems to be based on rejection of basic facts of science. Could you please fix it a little bit? Thanks,


  8. #8 Eli Rabett

    With DSCVR one gets the entire earth image on a continuous bases. With an orbiting satellite you get a discontinuous set of images which have to be cross calibrated to each other and which have been taken at different times. Thus, in the latter case, you are averaging cloud effects. Clouds affect albedo and can easily change on an hourly basis.


  9. #9 Sam-Hec

    Lubos wrote:
    “Are you serious that Earth’s magnetosphere changes the amount of energy that goes through space?”

    Some beleive that cosmic radiation from the sun does have an effect on the climate (I amdubious on this point) so it would make sense to be able too more precisely define it’s role (if any) by measurements not affected by the magnetosphere.

    And even if the Sun’s heavier radiations have no effect on the climate this would platform help as a good continuous study of solar physics.

    I am not sure what you mean by “ejection of basic facts of science”. I like to think my beleifs are in line with up to date science…but I am not a scientist.

  10. #10 Sam-Hec

    …and I am not a gud speler. =D

  11. #11 Hank Roberts
  12. #12 Hank Roberts

    OK, you’re one of my three preferred sites for mini-spamming on Triana, if you’ll allow it. Suggestion:

    Go here:

    Sign up.

    Search “triana” in the search box.
    Find the question.

    Vote for it.

    7 to 5 right now.

    (I don’t know if they’ll ask for your passport. Likely not.)

  13. #13 Hank Roberts

    PS, here’s how I posted the question for the incoming administration, at change.gov where they are attempting to get an idea of what questions people want addressed.

    Nobody else has asked about it and I figured someone should.
    Will you, please, get Triana/DSCOVR satellite out of storage and launched?

    Yes, of course I’m not cynical enough yet. But I believe in going through the motions as though I thought they listened.

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