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Panel supports Earth-observing satellites.

Earlier this month, the National Research Council gave its approval to a planned 20-year, $30 billion program of polar-orbiting spacecraft called the Earth Orbiting System (EOS). These NASA satellites would monitor physical conditions in the atmosphere, in oceans and on land, and assess marine and terrestrial ecologies. EOS, scheduled to begin in 1998 as part of a larger remote-sensing project known as Mission to Planet Earth, constitutes "the largest single component of the most ambitious scientific enterprise ever undertaken," the report observes. But NRC, the research arm of the National Academy of Sciences, adds that conclusions in its new report should "simultaneously inspire confidence and generate concern."

EOS appears to lack the flexibility to incorporate new technologies and to adapt to new requirements during its operational life, the report says. Moreover, the data system intended to disseminate information from EOS spacecraft is not yet fully developed, the document notes. Once that system does begin transmitting EOS data, NASA should ensure that other federal agencies and research groups obtain easy access to the new and vital knowledge,

NRC says. Finally, the authors of the report remind NASA to prepare back-up contingencies in case any of the instruments fail, and to develop ground-based programs to complement observations from space.
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Title Annotation:National Research Council approves planned Earth Orbiting System satellites
Publication:Science News
Date:Jul 27, 1991
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