But we already know what the Earth looks like from space.
Former U.S. vice president Al Gore, making impromptu remarks at an AGU Fall Meeting session, said, “The reason you see so many pictures” of the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) satellite at this session is “that it already has been built.” However, “because one of its primary missions was to help document global warming, it was cancelled. So for those who are interested in struggling against political influence,” Gore said, “the benefits have been documented well here.”
Gore attended the 8 December session entitled “Earth Observations from the L1 (Lagrangian Point No. 1),” which focused on the capabilities and refurbishment of the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) satellite. The satellite, formerly called Triana, had been proposed by Gore in 1998 to gather climate data. The satellite was built but never launched: Congress mandated that before Triana could be launched the National Academies of Science needed to confirm that the science it would be doing was worthwhile. By the time the validation was complete, the satellite “was no longer compatible with the space shuttle manifest,” Robert C. Smith, program manager for strategic integration at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, told Eos.
The satellite was “put into a state of stable suspension,” Smith said. In 2008, the satellite was removed from storage and refurbishment began. The Obama administration wants to see the DSCOVR satellite launched as a successor to the Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE) satellite, which is used by the Space Weather Prediction Center to monitor solar storms and space weather. ACE has been in orbit for more than 14 years; it originally had been intended as a two-year mission.
The goal is to put DSCOVR into space at the Lagrangian Point 1 (L1), a gravity-neutral point 1.5 million kilometers from Earth. From that vantage point, the satellite would have continuous views of the daylight side of the planet.
“For some years,” Gore told the group of scientists attending the session, “the L1 point has been used…to get early warning of solar storms. There are a lot of industries like telecommunication systems” that would “get shut down before the plasma arrives. The one key system remaining is on its last legs.”
Gore pointed out that one of the “co-benefits” of the now-famous photo taken of planet Earth from Apollo on 25 December 1968 was “a dramatic change in the way people all over the world looked at the Earth.” This had a “profound impact on consciousness”: Less than two years later, the first Earth Day celebration was held, and the Clean Water Act and other key environmental legislation were enacted, he said. Gore noted that the instruments onboard DSCOVR would provide 24/7 “color images of the Earth in real time,” Gore said. Every person on the Earth would be able to see their home, he noted.