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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Airborne Platforms to Advance NASA Earth System Science Priorities: Assessing the Future Need for a Large Aircraft. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26079.
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AIRBORNE PLATFORMS
TO ADVANCE NASA
EARTH SYSTEM SCIENCE PRIORITIES

ASSESSING THE FUTURE NEED
FOR A LARGE AIRCRAFT

Committee on Future Use of NASA Airborne Platforms to Advance Earth Science Priorities

Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate

Division on Earth and Life Studies

Space Studies Board

Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences

A Consensus Study Report of

images

THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS
Washington, DC
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Airborne Platforms to Advance NASA Earth System Science Priorities: Assessing the Future Need for a Large Aircraft. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26079.
×

THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS 500 Fifth Street, NW Washington, DC 20001

This activity was supported by contracts between the National Academy of Sciences and The National Aeronautics and Space Administration, under contract number 10004838. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views of any organization or agency that provided support for the project.

International Standard Book Number-13: 978-0-309-30603-4
International Standard Book Number-10: 0-309-30603-5
Digital Object Identifier: https://doi.org/10.17226/26079

Additional copies of this publication are available from the National Academies Press, 500 Fifth Street, NW, Keck 360, Washington, DC 20001; (800) 624-6242 or (202) 334-3313; http://www.nap.edu.

Copyright 2021 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

Printed in the United States of America

Suggested citation: National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Airborne Platforms to Advance NASA Earth System Science Priorities: Assessing the Future Need for a Large Aircraft. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/26079.

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Airborne Platforms to Advance NASA Earth System Science Priorities: Assessing the Future Need for a Large Aircraft. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26079.
×

Image

The National Academy of Sciences was established in 1863 by an Act of Congress, signed by President Lincoln, as a private, nongovernmental institution to advise the nation on issues related to science and technology. Members are elected by their peers for outstanding contributions to research. Dr. Marcia McNutt is president.

The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964 under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences to bring the practices of engineering to advising the nation. Members are elected by their peers for extraordinary contributions to engineering. Dr. John L. Anderson is president.

The National Academy of Medicine (formerly the Institute of Medicine) was established in 1970 under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences to advise the nation on medical and health issues. Members are elected by their peers for distinguished contributions to medicine and health. Dr. Victor J. Dzau is president.

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Learn more about the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine at www.nationalacademies.org.

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Airborne Platforms to Advance NASA Earth System Science Priorities: Assessing the Future Need for a Large Aircraft. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26079.
×

Image

Consensus Study Reports published by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine document the evidence-based consensus on the study’s statement of task by an authoring committee of experts. Reports typically include findings, conclusions, and recommendations based on information gathered by the committee and the committee’s deliberations. Each report has been subjected to a rigorous and independent peer-review process and it represents the position of the National Academies on the statement of task.

Proceedings published by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine chronicle the presentations and discussions at a workshop, symposium, or other event convened by the National Academies. The statements and opinions contained in proceedings are those of the participants and are not endorsed by other participants, the planning committee, or the National Academies.

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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Airborne Platforms to Advance NASA Earth System Science Priorities: Assessing the Future Need for a Large Aircraft. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26079.
×

COMMITTEE ON FUTURE USE OF NASA AIRBORNE PLATFORMS TO ADVANCE EARTH SCIENCE PRIORITIES

WILLIAM H. BRUNE (Co-Chair), Pennsylvania State University

SHUYI S. CHEN (Co-Chair), University of Washington

KRISTIE A. BOERING (NAS), University of California, Berkeley

CATHERINE F. CAHILL, University of Alaska, Fairbanks

JAMES H. CRAWFORD, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Langley Research Center

DAVID FAHEY, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

SARAH T. GILLE, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego

VANDA GRUBIŠIĆ, National Center for Atmospheric Research

GEORGE J. KOMAR, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (ret.)

ERIC A. KORT, University of Michigan

ZHONG LU, Southern Methodist University

GREG McFARQUHAR, University of Oklahoma

WALTER N. MEIER, National Snow and Ice Data Center and Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado

CHARLES E. MILLER, Jet Propulsion Laboratory

ANNE NOLIN, University of Nevada, Reno

BEAT SCHMID, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

SUSAN L. USTIN, University of California, Davis

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine Staff

APRIL MELVIN, Study Director

AMANDA PURCELL, Study Director

ART CHARO, Senior Program Officer

AMANDA STAUDT, Senior Board Director

RACHEL SILVERN, Associate Program Officer

ERIN MARKOVICH, Research Associate

ROB GREENWAY, Program Associate

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Airborne Platforms to Advance NASA Earth System Science Priorities: Assessing the Future Need for a Large Aircraft. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26079.
×

BOARD ON ATMOSPHERIC SCIENCES AND CLIMATE

MARY GLACKIN (Chair), The Weather Company, an IBM Business (Ret.)

CYNTHIA S. ATHERTON, Heising-Simons Foundation

CECILIA BITZ, University of Washington

JOHN C. CHIANG, University of California, Berkeley

BRAD R. COLMAN, The Climate Corporation

BART CROES, California Air Resources Board (Ret.)

ROBERT B. DUNBAR, Stanford University

EFI FOUFOULA-GEORGIOU (NAE), University of California, Irvine

PETER C. FRUMHOFF, Union of Concerned Scientists

VANDA GRUBIŠIĆ, National Center for Atmospheric Research

ROBERT KOPP, Rutgers University

L. RUBY LEUNG (NAE), Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

ZHANQING LI, University of Maryland

JONATHAN MARTIN, University of Wisconsin–Madison

AMY McGOVERN, Oklahoma University

JONATHAN PATZ, University of Wisconsin–Madison

JAMES MARSHALL SHEPHERD (NAS/NAE), University of Georgia

ALLISON STEINER, University of Michigan

DAVID W. TITLEY, U.S. Navy (Ret.), Pennsylvania State University

ARADHNA TRIPATI, University of California, Los Angeles

DUANE E. WALISER, Jet Propulsion Laboratory

ELKE WEBER (NAS), Princeton University

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine Staff

AMANDA STAUDT, Senior Board Director

LAUREN EVERETT, Senior Program Officer

LAURIE GELLER, Senior Program Officer

APRIL MELVIN, Senior Program Officer

AMANDA PURCELL, Senior Program Officer

ALEX REICH, Associate Program Officer

RACHEL SILVERN, Associate Program Officer

SHELLY FREELAND, Financial Assistant

RITA GASKINS, Administrative Coordinator

ROB GREENWAY, Program Associate

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Airborne Platforms to Advance NASA Earth System Science Priorities: Assessing the Future Need for a Large Aircraft. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26079.
×

SPACE STUDIES BOARD

MARGARET G. KIVELSON (Chair) (NAS), University of California, Los Angeles

GREGORY P. ASNER (NAS), Arizona State University

ADAM S. BURROWS (NAS), Princeton University

JAMES H. CROCKER (NAE), Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company (Ret.)

MARY LYNNE DITTMAR, Dittmar Associates, Inc.

JEFF DOZIER, University of California, Santa Barbara

MELINDA DARBY DYAR, Mount Holyoke College

ANTONIO L ELIAS (NAE), Orbital ATK, Inc. (Ret.)

VICTORIA E. HAMILTON, Southwest Research Institute

CHRYSSA KOUVELIOTOU (NAS), George Washington University

DENNIS P. LETTENMAIER (NAE), University of California, Los Angeles

ROSALY M. LOPES, Jet Propulsion Laboratory

STEPHEN J. MACKWELL, American Institute of Physics

DAVID J. McCOMAS, Princeton University

LARRY PAXTON, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory

ELIOT QUATAERT (NAS), Princeton University

MARK P. SAUNDERS, Independent Consultant

BARBARA SHERWOOD LOLLAR (NAE), University of Toronto

HOWARD J. SINGER, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

HARLAN E. SPENCE, University of New Hampshire

ERIKA WAGNER, Blue Origin

PAUL D. WOOSTER, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX)

EDWARD L. WRIGHT (NAS), University of California, Los Angeles

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine Staff

COLLEEN HARTMAN, Director for Space and Aeronautics

ARTHUR CHARO, Senior Program Officer

SANDRA GRAHAM, Senior Program Officer

ABIGAIL SHEFFER, Senior Program Officer

DAVID SMITH, Senior Program Officer

DANIEL NAGASAWA, Program Officer

MEG KNEMEYER, Financial Officer

TANJA PILZAK, Manager, Program Operations

ANDREA REBHOLZ, Program Coordinator

DIONNA WISE, Program Coordinator

CELESTE A. NAYLOR, Information Management Associate

MIA BROWN, Research Associate

MEGAN CHAMBERLAIN, Senior Program Assistant

GAYBRIELLE HOLBERT, Senior Program Assistant

RADAKA LIGHTFOOT, Senior Financial Assistant

Page viii Cite
Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Airborne Platforms to Advance NASA Earth System Science Priorities: Assessing the Future Need for a Large Aircraft. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26079.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Airborne Platforms to Advance NASA Earth System Science Priorities: Assessing the Future Need for a Large Aircraft. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26079.
×

Preface

On its first science mission in 1987, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) DC-8 aircraft flew over Antarctica to examine the ozone hole, initiating its long important role in NASA airborne Earth system science research. For the past 34 years, it has since flown missions all around the world studying phenomena in our changing world, such as tropical cyclones, wildland fires, melting polar ice caps, deforestation, and geological hazards. A strength of the DC-8 is its unique combination of endurance, range, payload weight and power capacity, flexibility in payload composition, altitude range and ceiling, and space to accommodate many investigators. These characteristics have made it well suited for carrying a wide array of instrument payloads to do a wide array of Earth system science research while also providing a testbed for satellite instrument prototypes and helping develop two generations of Earth system scientists. However, it is nearing the end of its useful life.

At the behest of NASA, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (the National Academies) assembled a committee of accomplished scientists in diverse Earth system science fields to assess the future need for a large aircraft to serve NASA Earth system science priorities.

About the time that the committee was being assembled, gatherings were shut down to reduce the spread of COVID-19. As a result, the committee never met in person. What would have been a series of 2-day meetings became a scattering of 2- to 3-hour Zoom calls fit into the committee members’ schedules. Although the difficulties that COVID-19 presented to the committee are insignificant compared to its other consequences, the lack of in-person meetings forced us to rethink our approach to developing this consensus report. Only extra effort by the National Academies' staff and the committee made delivering the report possible.

The committee gathered information early in the study process at a 2-day virtual workshop, when experts gave presentations on the research questions confronting their Earth system science disciplines and the roles aircraft have in answering those questions. We are grateful to the speakers: Greg Asner, Mary Barth, William Dietrich, Ralph Dubayah, Emily Fischer, Scott Hensley, Michelle Hofton, Simon Hook, Robert Houze, Daniel Jacob, Raphael Kudela, Mark Merrifield, Mahta Moghaddam, Amin Nehrir, Tamay Özgökmen, Laura Pan, Tamlin Pavelsky, Simone Tanelli, Kirsty Tinto, Carrie Vuyovich, Josh Willis, Steve Wofsy, Robert Wood, and Robert Wright. We also appreciate all the comments received from members of the Earth system science research community and the extensive information collected and provided to the committee by NASA.

We have had the pleasure of working with some talented people at the National Academies. April Melvin and Amanda Purcell, Senior Program Officers, provided

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Airborne Platforms to Advance NASA Earth System Science Priorities: Assessing the Future Need for a Large Aircraft. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26079.
×

guidance, cohesion, flexibility, and stability as we navigated through this new all-virtual process. Art Charo and Amanda Staudt provided timely insights based on their vast experience. We thank them.

Finally, we thank every member of the committee. Each one made substantial contributions. We appreciate everyone’s time and effort, insights, and commitment to creating the best possible report. An additional benefit of working with this outstanding committee has been learning about the breadth of Earth system science research. We are confident that this committee’s recommendations provide an excellent guide for NASA’s decisions regarding airborne platforms for advancing its Earth system science priorities.

Shuyi Chen, Committee Co-Chair
William Brune, Committee Co-Chair

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Airborne Platforms to Advance NASA Earth System Science Priorities: Assessing the Future Need for a Large Aircraft. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26079.
×

Acknowledgments

This Consensus Study Report was reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in making each published report as sound as possible and to ensure that it meets the institutional standards for quality, objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process.

We thank the following individuals for their review of this report:

ANA P. BARROS (NAE), Duke University

DAVID DeROSIER (NAS), Brandeis University

CRAIG GLENNIE, University of Houston

ERIN HESTIR, University of California, Merced

TRISTAN L'ECUYER, University of Wisconsin–Madison

LUC LENAIN, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego

ROBYN MILLAN, Dartmouth College

R. STEVEN NEREM, Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences

CAROLINE NOWLAN, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

DAVID PETERSON, Naval Research Laboratory

DAR ROBERTS, University of California, Santa Barbara

ARMIN SOROOSHIAN, University of Arizona

LEIGH STEARNS, University of Kansas

DARIN TOOHEY, University of Colorado

Although the reviewers listed above provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the conclusions or recommendations of this report nor did they see the final draft before its release. The review of this report was overseen by Thomas H. Vonder Haar (NAE), Colorado State University, and Nancy Baker, Naval Research Laboratory. They were responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with the standards of the National Academies and that all review comments were carefully

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Airborne Platforms to Advance NASA Earth System Science Priorities: Assessing the Future Need for a Large Aircraft. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26079.
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considered. Responsibility for the final content rests entirely with the authoring committee and the National Academies.

Page xiii Cite
Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Airborne Platforms to Advance NASA Earth System Science Priorities: Assessing the Future Need for a Large Aircraft. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26079.
×
Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Airborne Platforms to Advance NASA Earth System Science Priorities: Assessing the Future Need for a Large Aircraft. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26079.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Airborne Platforms to Advance NASA Earth System Science Priorities: Assessing the Future Need for a Large Aircraft. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26079.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Airborne Platforms to Advance NASA Earth System Science Priorities: Assessing the Future Need for a Large Aircraft. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26079.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Airborne Platforms to Advance NASA Earth System Science Priorities: Assessing the Future Need for a Large Aircraft. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26079.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Airborne Platforms to Advance NASA Earth System Science Priorities: Assessing the Future Need for a Large Aircraft. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26079.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Airborne Platforms to Advance NASA Earth System Science Priorities: Assessing the Future Need for a Large Aircraft. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26079.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Airborne Platforms to Advance NASA Earth System Science Priorities: Assessing the Future Need for a Large Aircraft. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26079.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Airborne Platforms to Advance NASA Earth System Science Priorities: Assessing the Future Need for a Large Aircraft. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26079.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Airborne Platforms to Advance NASA Earth System Science Priorities: Assessing the Future Need for a Large Aircraft. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26079.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Airborne Platforms to Advance NASA Earth System Science Priorities: Assessing the Future Need for a Large Aircraft. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26079.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Airborne Platforms to Advance NASA Earth System Science Priorities: Assessing the Future Need for a Large Aircraft. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26079.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Airborne Platforms to Advance NASA Earth System Science Priorities: Assessing the Future Need for a Large Aircraft. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26079.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Airborne Platforms to Advance NASA Earth System Science Priorities: Assessing the Future Need for a Large Aircraft. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26079.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Airborne Platforms to Advance NASA Earth System Science Priorities: Assessing the Future Need for a Large Aircraft. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26079.
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The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and other U.S. science research agencies operate a fleet of research aircraft and other airborne platforms that offer diverse capabilities. To inform NASA's future investments in airborne platforms, this study examines whether a large aircraft that would replace the current NASA DC-8 is needed to address Earth system science questions, and the role of other airborne platforms for achieving future Earth system science research goals.

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