The best part of my job as a science communicator at JPL is talking to people—all kinds of people. I often give speeches to audiences large and small about NASA’s mission to study our home planet. I’ve spoken at schools, professional conferences, and business events and in one-on-one conversations with family and friends, or at parties. At some point in the exchange I always ask the same question. It’s like my own personal survey that I’ve been conducting since 2007, the year I started working here. I ask them, “Do you know that NASA studies planet Earth? You know, our planet, from the vantage point of space?”
When I first began carrying out my little unofficial survey, typically only one or two people in a large group knew that NASA does Earth science and has satellites that study our home planet. Sometimes no one knew.
But I continued. I kept asking that same question to all the different groups of people I came in contact with and eventually the answers started to shift. The change happened slowly; sometimes there were only a few "yeses"; maybe one of two hands would go up in a crowd. Every year that went by, and every time I spoke, a few more hands would go up. More heads would nod and more people would say, “Oh yeah, I knew that NASA studies Earth.” I wondered if NASA’s outreach was working.
For a quite a while the results hovered around 5-10 percent of any group who acknowledged that they knew about NASA Earth missions. Then, sometime in 2012, it jumped to about half of the people I talked to. Wow, that was a big deal for me. I shared the news with my team at JPL.
And finally—you guessed it—for the first time, in the fall of 2013, every time I asked that question, the answer was “yes!” More people know that NASA studies Earth from space right now. I think that might be because people care more about our planet than ever before
So, to any of you people of Earth reading this: thank you. Thank you for noticing us at NASA, thank you for joining our mission.
Now, I’ve got another question for you. Did you know that NASA currently has 16 Earth orbiting science satellites and is preparing to launch five more? I wonder how long it will take to get a “yes” answer to that one.
Welcome to the first installment of Earth Right Now, a new blog focused on NASA's biggest campaign to study our home planet in over a decade.
In fact, this year holds so much new Earth science that our goal right now at NASA is to tell everyone on Earth about Earth.
The main reason we’re so excited to share our stories is that in addition to the 16 Earth science research spacecraft already flying, NASA is preparing to launch another five—yes that’s five—new Earth missions in 2014.
First in the lineup is a satellite that will measure rain and snow worldwide every three hours as well as improve weather forecasting. This puppy is set to launch in February 2014 and we plan to have a lot to say about it right here. Other missions coming this year will give us high-quality measurements of atmospheric carbon dioxide, track Earth's water to monitor floods and drought, measure ocean winds, clouds, and small particles, track storms and hurricanes over the ocean, and use three-wavelength lasers to examine small particles from volcanoes, air pollution, dust, and smoke. Two of these Earth science missions will be sent to the International Space Station.
Is that all? Not yet. This year NASA is also sponsoring 12 research airplanes that will study the polar ice sheets, urban air pollution, hurricanes, ecosystem health and more over the United States, Central and South America, Antarctica, and the Arctic Circle.
Throughout this big year of NASA going to planet Earth, this blog will be the place to find the inside scoop. Join me as I walk the hallways and talk to scientists, engineers, and other random visionaries about the five new missions plus the 12 research aircraft and more from an up close and personal angle. Witness the quirks, the personal moments and the sometimes amazing things we do here at NASA. Welcome to 2014, welcome to this new blog, and welcome to Earth Right Now.
I look forward to reading and responding to your comments.