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Updated 8 February, 2004

National Aeronautics and Space Administration









NASA brings to environment and natural resources research the ability to view the Earth in its entirety from space. This unique position has led NASA to focus on the study of the Earth as a integrated system, examining physical climate systems, biogeochemical cycles, and the linkages between the two.

Types of Environment and Natural Resources Research Supported

NASA seeks to further understanding of the total Earth system, and the effects of natural and human-induced changes on the global environment. The pursuit of Earth system science would be impractical without the continuous global coverage provided by satellite-borne instruments. NASA's unique ability to develop advanced, space-based research platforms -- converging with the national interest in the basic sciences and their practical benefits -- has led to the Mission to Planet Earth (MTPE) Program.

Mission to Planet Earth is composed of an integrated slate of spacecraft and in situ measurement capabilities; data and information management systems to acquire, process, archive, and distribute global data sets; and research and analysis programs to convert data into new knowledge of the Earth system. Myriad users in academia, industry, and Federal, State, and local government tap this knowledge to generate products and services essential to achieving sustainable development. Mission to Planet Earth is NASA's contribution to the USGCRP, an interagency effort to understand the processes and patterns of global change. The Earth Observing System (EOS) -- the centerpiece of Mission to Planet Earth -- is a program of multiple spacecraft and interdisciplinary investigations to provide a 15-year data set of key parameters needed to understand global climate change. Balancing the state of Earth system science with NASA capabilities, funding constraints, USGCRP research priorities, and the needs of external communities, the MTPE Program has established the following unifying themes for MTPE science and missions over the period 1996-2002:

  • Land-Cover Change and Global Productivity: This area of emphasis involves documenting and understanding the trends and patterns of change in regional land cover, biodiversity, and global primary production.

  • Seasonal-to-Interannual Climate Prediction: The MTPE Program seeks to provide global observations and scientific understanding to improve forecasts of the timing and geographic extent of transient climate anomalies.

  • Long-Term Climate Variability: This unifying theme serves to provide global observations and scientific understanding of the mechanisms and factors that determine long-term climate variations and trends.

  • Atmospheric Ozone: This focus continues studies into the detection, causes, and consequences of changes in stratospheric ozone.

  • Natural Hazards: This category applies unique MTPE remote-sensing science and technologies to disaster characterization and risk reduction from earthquakes, fires, floods, and droughts.

Other MTPE research efforts in such areas as global climate and Earth system modeling, solid Earth dynamics, and ocean topography combine with these to form an integrated approach to the advancement of Earth system science.

Research Funding Opportunities

NASA issues RFPs, AOs, and NASA Research Announcements (NRAs) to solicit high-calibre Earth scientists. General information about flight programs and development opportunities should be sent to the following address:

NASA Headquarters
Office of Mission to Planet Earth
Flight Systems Division, Mail Code YF
Washington, DC 20546

General information about science programs and research funding opportunities can be obtained from the Science Division:

NASA Headquarters
Office of Mission to Planet Earth
Science Division, Mail Code YS
Washington, DC 20546

In addition, NASA accepts and funds unsolicited proposals. Further information can be obtained from, and applications sent to, the Office of Procurement:

NASA Headquarters
Office of Procurement, Mail Code CW
Washington, DC 20546

General Funding Opportunities

Specific information about generic funding opportunities should be directed to the individuals listed below:

  • Earth System Science Pathfinder (ESSP) : This program of small satellite missions with development under 36 months and total cost less than $120 million per mission focuses on new scientific measurements not covered by EOS. Proposals should cover spacecraft and instrument development, operations, data analysis, and science.
    Raymond Roberts
    202.358.0251 (voice)

  • New Millennium Program (NMP) : This program focuses on demonstration of technologies and techniques that can enable science missions of the future. The key objectives are to enable new capabilities or to improve the performance and/or decrease the cost of current flight and measurement capabilities. These objectives are critical to meet the advanced technology needs and projected life-cycle cost savings resulting from the mid-1995 "reshaping" of the EOS Program. Actual science investigations may be accomplished, but only as a secondary objective and largely as a result of successful demonstrations of the technologies. Plans are for the NMP Earth science missions to be launched every 2 years starting in 1998. Calls for industry and other private sector participation will be made to support this schedule.
    Granville Paules
    202.358.0706 (voice)

  • EOS Interdisciplinary Investigations (IDS) : NASA and partner agencies are cooperating with other nations in developing EOS. EOS consists of a series of polar-orbiting and lower inclination satellites that will provide global observations of the land surface, oceans, ice sheets, and atmosphere over a minimum period of 15 years, with initial launches scheduled for 1997; a comprehensive data and information system to acquire, process, archive, and make available the resulting information to a broad range of users; and a basic research program supporting development of models/algorithms for retrieval of information content of global observations and interdisciplinary Earth system science investigations.
    Ghassem Asrar
    202.358.0274 (voice)

Mission to Planet Earth Research and Analysis (R&A) Program

A wide range of investigations are ongoing and planned in such areas as land-cover change and global productivity, atmospheric ozone, seasonal-to-interannual climate forecasting, long-term climate change, and natural hazards research/solid Earth science. A short list of candidate opportunities planned for release over the next 2 years is provided below, along with a description of the various ongoing elements of the R&A Program that accept unsolicited proposals and are planning future competitive opportunities:

  • Earth System Science Pathfinder
  • Brazilian field campaigns
  • Boreal Ecosystem-Atmosphere Study (BOREAS) guest investigator
  • Ocean Topography Experiment (TOPEX)/Poseidon science working Team
  • Atmospheric chemistry modeling and analysis
  • Natural hazards (Volcano Climate Inter II)
  • Land-cover and land-use science
  • Dynamics of the solid Earth
  • The Sensor Intercalibration and Merger for Biological and Interdisciplinary Oceanic Studies (SIMBIOS).

Descriptions and specific points-of-contact for the various program elements follow:

  • General Circulation and Coupled Modeling : The goal of this effort is to use models and model-assimilated data sets to assess global climate system variability and trends on seasonal-interannual through century time scales. The strategy behind this program element is to develop, improve, and test global atmospheric climate models and their couplings to models of other parts of the Earth system, and to use them to diagnose and predict climate variations and trends, with the objective of providing analytic and predictive capability for assessments of global climate and Earth system behavior. This element also seeks to develop, improve, test, and assist in implementing a near-real-time model-driven data assimilation system that will have the capability of ingesting EOS and other remotely sensed observational data along with conventional data, with the objective of providing the best possible synthesis of observational information and model skill, in the form of research-quality climate data sets for community use.
    Ken Bergman
    202.358.0765 (voice)

  • Land-Cover and Land-Use Change : The goal here is to develop the capability to perform repeated global inventories of land-cover and land-use from space, and to develop the scientific understanding and models necessary to evaluate the consequences of the observed changes. The strategy behind this program element is to develop methods and techniques, and to conduct research to evaluate impacts and the consequences of land-use change; to establish ways to quantify them; and to develop the capabilities to explore alternative land-use and monitoring strategies. The program will consist of a combination of satellite and field-based studies. The broader challenge of accurately accounting for land-use and land-cover change and the underlying research to interpret it will require a partnership with many scientific and natural resource management institutions around the world. Emphasis will be on the regions of the world currently undergoing the most stress, and where stresses from human activities are sure to increase the most rapidly.
    Anthony Janetos
    202.358.0276 (voice)

  • Global Data Integration and Validation : The goal here is to support the interdisciplinary interpretation of remote-sensing data from a variety of U.S. and foreign satellites in order to validate atmospheric remote-sensing algorithms, and to study the time and space variations of the derived geophysical parameters. The strategy behind this program element is to acquire appropriate satellite and in situ data to validate algorithm performance in regional-global intercomparisons and field experiments for the study of physical interactions between the atmosphere and the land, ocean, or ice surfaces below; to refine the remote-sensing algorithms until their outputs serve as base environmental states and as measures of the natural variability of specific parameters; to provide the determined environmental states, variability, and trends to models for characterizing model performance and validating retrospective model runs to the present; to determine the variability of atmospheric moisture, energy and water cycles, surface fluxes from the oceans, and changes in water vapor radiative forcing; to establish remote measurement capabilities for difficult variables like precipitation, cloud liquid water, water vapor varying with height, and in-cloud particle type effects; and to contribute to assessments of global and regional variability of atmospheric water source availability.
    James Dodge
    202.358.0763 (voice)

  • Land Surface and Hydrology : The goal of this effort is to develop a predictive understanding of the role of water in land-atmosphere interaction and to further the scientific basis of water resources management. The strategy behind this program element is to develop process models for describing mesoscale coupling of atmospheric motion and the exchange of water, energy, and momentum at the land surface; to develop new or improved technology and techniques for measuring hydrologic variables and seek new applications to hydrologic problems; and to formulate new theories about the role of land-atmosphere interactions in regional and global climate.
    Ming-Ying Wei
    202.358.0771 (voice)

  • Atmospheric Dynamics and Remote Sensing : The goal here is to develop an improved understanding of the physical processes important in establishing the circulation of the atmosphere on all scales, ranging from the cloud, regional, and mesoscale to the global scale. This includes not only a comprehensive understanding of the distributions and variations of mass, energy, momentum, and water vapor in the troposphere at all scales, but also a complete understanding of the coupling between the dynamical and thermodynamical processes with the hydrological and radiative processes. To accomplish this goal, it is necessary to monitor the physical variables that characterize the state of the atmosphere. Therefore, the research programs pursued include the development of ground-, airborne-, and space-based remote-sensing techniques; participation in field experiments to obtain comprehensive data sets; advanced process modeling studies such as interscale energy transitions; and development of parameterizations for moist convective systems frontal zones, internal gravity waves, clouds, and radiative transfer.
    Ramesh Kakar
    202.358.0240 (voice)

  • Geopotential Fields : The goal of this program element is to increase understanding of the fundamental processes that generate and maintain the Earth's geomagnetic field. The strategy behind this program element is to observe and understand the static and dynamic components of the Earth's gravity field as a means of detecting lithospheric and mantle structure and dynamics, cryospheric and hydrological mass flux, and atmospheric circulation with times scales of months and longer. This also involves observing the dynamics of the Earth's magnetic field as a means of characterizing the core processes that generate the Earth's main magnetic field, the mechanisms leading to main field polarity reversal, and the structure, composition, and evolution of the mantle and lithosphere, and of assessing natural mineral resources with time scales of months and longer.
    Miriam Baltuck
    202.358.0244 (voice)

  • Geodynamics : This program element seeks to enhance science and technology related to the dynamics of the solid Earth and its interactions with the oceans and atmosphere. This program includes the development of geodetic techniques to measure deformation of the solid Earth, including Global Positioning System (GPS), Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI), and Satellite Laser Ranging (SLR) technology. The strategy behind this program element is to observe, understand, and predict the dynamics and evolution of the Earth's lithosphere in order to mitigate the danger of earthquakes, to understand land subsidence, and to locate and access natural resources with time scales of hours and longer. Other objectives include observing and understanding the dynamics in the Earth's orientation and rotation as a comprehensive indicator of Earth system dynamics including paleoenvironment, oceanic and atmospheric circulation, internal core and mantle motions, and extraterrestrial forcing functions with time scales of hours and longer.
    Miriam Baltuck
    202.358.0244 (voice)

  • Satellite Laser Ranging : The SLR Program shares the same goal as the geodynamics program, but also provides for cross-disciplinary support for satellite laser tracking of 21 NASA and international satellite missions using NASA and other assets.
    Miriam Baltuck
    202.358.0244 (voice)

  • Polar Research : The goal here is to measure the mass balance of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, and to improve the simulation of ocean/ice/atmosphere processes in climate models. The strategy behind this program element is to develop improved techniques for estimating important geophysical parameters from satellite and in situ data, to investigate key processes and their mutual interaction, and to develop models that incorporate our improved understanding.
    Robert Thomas
    202.358.1154 (voice)

  • Atmospheric Effects of Aviation : The goal here is to develop a scientific basis for assessment of future subsonic and potential supersonic aviation on atmospheric ozone levels and global climate, with a focus on commercial aircraft cruise emissions. The strategy behind this program element is to promote advancements in the conceptual understanding and computational model representations of upper troposphere/lower stratosphere processes and aircraft wake and plume processes; to improve input databases for models, specifically those for operational aircraft scenarios, photolysis rates, chemical reaction rates, and source gas emissions form the Earth's surface; and to denote and quantify, where possible, uncertainties in the conceptual understanding and model representation of atmospheric processes related to aircraft impacts.
    Randall R. Friedl
    202.358.0776 (voice)

  • Terrestrial Ecology : The goal here is to improve understanding of the structure and function of global terrestrial ecosystems, their interactions with the atmosphere and hydrosphere, and their role in the cycling of the major biogeochemical elements and water. The strategy behind this program element is to use remote sensing to observe the distribution and structure of the Earth's terrestrial ecosystems, to conduct process studies to elucidate ecosystem functions, and to develop realistic models that stimulate these ecosystem properties and processes. Emphasis is on integrating process understanding with remote-sensing observations and ecological modeling to extend understanding across spatial and temporal scales.
    Diane Wickland
    202.358.0245 (voice)

  • Atmospheric Chemistry Modeling and Analysis : The goal of this program element is to improve understanding of the distribution of chemically and radiatively active trace constituents and aerosols in the troposphere and stratosphere at regional to global scales, through the development of computational models representing atmospheric chemistry and transport processes, and by model-based analysis and interpretation of atmospheric constituent and dynamical data. The strategy behind this program element is to develop models of atmospheric chemistry and physics for both the troposphere and stratosphere, and to interpret atmospheric trace gas and aerosol data, emphasizing the characterization of spatial and temporal variability and distinguishing between natural and anthropogenic origins of this variability.

    Jack Kaye
    202.358.0757 (voice)

  • Upper Atmosphere Research : The goal here is to understand the physical, chemical, and transport processes of the atmosphere (upper troposphere and stratosphere) and their control on the distribution of stratospheric species such as ozone; to accurately assess possible perturbations to the composition of the atmosphere caused by human activities and natural phenomena; and to understand the distribution of and processes affecting concentrations of radiatevely active species and the processes responsible for the dynamical and chemical coupling of the troposphere and stratosphere. Field measurements employing in situ and remote-sensing techniques from surface-based, aircraft, balloon, and rocket platforms are supported by laboratory studies of gas phase and heterogeneous kinetics, photochemistry, spectroscopy, and calibration standards development, as well as process- oriented modeling and data analysis.
    Mike Kurylo
    202.358.0237 (voice)

  • Tropospheric Chemistry Program : The goal of this program element is to develop an understanding of global tropospheric chemistry and to assess the susceptibility of the global atmosphere to chemical change from human impacts and natural effects, with special attention to the connection of chemical change to climate change and to changes in atmospheric ozone. This effort seeks to determine tropospheric meteorological and chemical influences on the atmosphere as a whole, particularly the stratosphere and upper troposphere; to understand the chemistry of global tropospheric species and the causes of changes in chemical composition, particularly in regions of the world that are expected to experience the greatest stress from human impacts over the next decade; to develop techniques for remote and in situ measurement of the concentrations and fluxes of key tropospheric species; and to develop a strategy for chemical measurements from space platforms in combination with in situ measurement techniques.
    Robert J. McNeil
    202.358.0239 (voice)

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