NASA cancels greenhouse gas monitoring satellite due to costs

NASA is canceling a planned satellite that would have intensively monitored greenhouse gases in the Americas because it has become too expensive and complicated.

But the space agency has said it will continue to monitor human-caused carbon pollution, but in different ways.

NASA announced on Tuesday that its GeoCarb mission, which was supposed to be a low-cost satellite to monitor carbon dioxide, methane and how plant life changes in North and South America, has been canceled at due to cost overruns.

When it was announced six years ago, it was expected to cost $166 million, but NASA’s latest figures show costs soared to more than $600 million and it was years overdue, according to Karen St. Germain, director of science. of the Earth by NASA.

Unlike other satellites that monitor greenhouse gases from low Earth orbit and get different parts of the globe in a big picture, GeoCarb was expected to be at a much higher altitude of 22,236 miles (35,786 kilometers) from a fixed point in orbit and focus intensely on North and South America. That different and further perspective proved too difficult and expensive to do on budget and on time, said St. Germain.

The equipment alone more than doubled the price and then there were non-technical issues that would have added more, he said. The agency has already spent $170 million on the now canceled program and will not spend any more.

“This does not reflect any reduction in our commitment to science, observations associated with greenhouse gases and climate change,” St. Germain said in an interview Tuesday. “We’re still busy doing that science. But we’re going to have to do it a different way because we don’t see this tool coming together.

Monitoring greenhouse gases, the main cause of global warming, is important on many levels. It can help pinpoint leaks, such as methane, or account for companies and countries that have committed to reducing emissions. In addition to governments, many private companies now carry out satellite monitoring of greenhouse gases.

Instead of its blueprint, NASA is looking to launch a yet-to-be-decided Earth-centric mission designed to be bigger and less risky. The space agency is also getting methane data from a special instrument on the International Space Station which was supposed to observe mineral dust but is monitoring the potent greenhouse gas as a bonus, plus there are European and Japanese space agency methane monitoring satellites and some commercial and non-profit companies, he said.

NASA also has two dedicated satellites that monitor carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas.

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