Author Topic: DSCOVR / Triana / Whatever  (Read 1232 times)

Dr. Leonard HmofCoy

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DSCOVR / Triana / Whatever
« on: November 06, 2015, 02:52:28 PM »
I have to say a few things about DSCOVR because it is probably the single most misunderstood mission NASA has ever run. And the history is interesting and pathetic and infuriating and nobody in the media have got it even close to right at any time. I've been aware of this thing forever because of what I do, obviously. And it's had a surprising effect on the arc of my career and the whole space/earth science field in general. Here is the real poop.

Originally this was a mission concept of some originality and import. The idea was to do a deep-space Earth radiation budget monitoring mission. The radiation budget is a basic, level-zero way to look at the climate. You look at the energy going in, you look at the energy coming out, see how it changes on various time scales, very simple equations to get the average temperature and so forth. It is a big-thinker-like-Carl-Sagan, or what's-different-between-mars-and-venus-and-earth level view of climate, but it has the advantage of being utterly based on non-ambiguous laws of physics and absolutely cannot be contradicted by playing the climate-complexity card or anything like that. And scientists have been working on measuring the earth radiation budget from orbiting satellites for decades (and I've got a stack of CDs to prove it). It's just hard, from orbit, for various technical reasons having to do with calibration and intercalibration and relative vs. absolute measurements, etc. I'm going to eschew all that for the moment.

The originality comes in to putting the sensors you're using at the L1 Lagrange point. From there you can simultaneously look at the Sun and the Earth. So variations in the Sun's output and the Earth-Sun distance on all time scales (which do occur, and are significantly large) do not matter. You take the Earth spectrum, divide by the Sun spectrum, ta-daa, albedo. The rest is relatively simple equations. And by doing ratio spectroscopy you don't have to worry about calibration drift as much. This is huge, because it's hard-to-impossible to calibrate spectrometers in space. I mean, pre-launch characterization is great, but launch is a little bit traumatic, the space environment is hard to simulate ... anyway. I COULD GO ON. But the ratio, looking at the two targets with the same instrument, is independent of calibration. I don't know if the original concept also included another similar satellite at another Lagrange point that would always look at the *dark* side of the Earth, which would have also been very cool, but anyway that didn't come close to happening anyway.

What did happen is that this mission concept wasn't prioritized very high because the science community was more interested in the complexity of the Earth system and how to study that, rather than stuff that has been studied for a while and is pretty obvious in some ways: I mean, we know what's going to happen. It's gonna get warmer, and not because of the Sun's variability, so this is very much of a yeah we knew this sort of thing. And then Vice President of the United States Albert Arnold Gore (Jr.) got on board.

What Gore thought of when he saw this all is that L1 would be an amazing place to put a webcam. And this was at a time when webcams were new and exciting and mostly used for boobs. Gore figured (correctly) that having a live, continuous view of the rotating Earth would be popular, and would focus lots of attention on science and the environment. And so political pressures came into play, the mission got a cute name (Triana, after Columbus's lookout who supposedly first spotted the island), and was inserted into NASA Earth Science's budget. Forcibly.

Quote from: a digression about al gore
Al Gore is the freaking Steve Jobs of science and the environment. An epic dick who was just so fucking right about everything that it pissed off pretty much everyone into a froth, but really they all should have been paying very close attention and if they had they'd be really fucking rich right now. WE'RE ALL POOR RIGHT NOW. And the evidence that he was right is all over the place, particularly with the excitement about this damn space webcam. He was right! Asshole.

And this was a problem for us (and I really mean "us" because by this time I was an independent scientist competing for NASA grants). a) we didn't think much of the science return b) hated the cute name (that's a stripper name, cyril) c) didn't appreciate political interference in the research prioritization process d) it fucked up the Earth Science budget so badly that we didn't get a follow up to the SeaWiFS mission which was launched in 1997 started until like two years ago. The follow-up mission is now on track for a 2020 launch unless the Republicans get back into the White House. That's how fucked up it is.

And then Gore managed to "lose" the election. And like the first thing that Reagan did when he got into office was to restart the useless B-1 bomber program, the first thing the Bush gang did when he got into office was to compel cancellation of the Triana mission. Because of course anything that might focus attention on science and the environment was anathema to their oil bosses. And then they pretty much destroyed the rest of the Earth Science budget, and only a desperate rear-guard action by the Senate kept anything going at all.

In the mean time something interesting happened with the mission. The spacecraft was complete and ready to fly, and not surprisingly NASA only has two ways to dispose of completed spacecraft: a) put them on a rocket and launch them b) give them to a museum. So they put it in mothballs with some head-scratching. And then the money got involved.

Huh?

Yep.

Space is good for making money, if you're a corporation with communications (and now surveillance) satellites. And with the dramatic expansion of the Internet going on at the time, there was a serious need for mo'betta'costly communications satellites as well as ocean cables and whatnot. And spacecraft in geostationary orbit turn out to be vulnerable to things like solar flares, coronal mass ejections, storms of cosmic rays ... Space Weather. And so the big communications corporations lobbied that this spacecraft get fitted with instruments to measure space weather: L1 is a great place for this. And they succeeded! They got the stuff bolted on there, changed the name so nobody would notice, got it back on the launch schedule! But then the Republicans, slow as they are, figured it out and nixed it. This is the only time in history the Republicans have ever acted so blatantly against the wishes of the money and it's because they are that afraid of the ideas of Al Gore. Plus by that time there were at least two wars on, so. Back to the mothballs.

And that brings us to today! Rest assured that this spacecraft was not launched because of the EPIC radiometer. It's because of the space weather measuring instruments on there. The EPIC radiometer/webcam is only still on there as a giant FUCK YOU from Al Gore perpetually mounted in space. And that when they say "space weather" they're not talking about meteorology, and I bet none of the mass media types covering this had a clue.

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flipper

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Re: DSCOVR / Triana / Whatever
« Reply #1 on: November 06, 2015, 03:41:45 PM »
Fascinating.  I think you have a novel there.  Just change the name of the Senator/VP/President removed by SOTUS to something like Galbert Ore or something like that.
"It all trickles down from the hot sex. I'm not saying you don't need cheese, just that if you concentrate on the hot sex, the cheese will follow. Naturally."--PsiDefect 03-19-2002 11:28 AM

Dr. Leonard HmofCoy

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Re: DSCOVR / Triana / Whatever
« Reply #2 on: November 06, 2015, 04:13:42 PM »
Fascinating.  I think you have a novel there.  Just change the name of the Senator/VP/President removed by SOTUS to something like Galbert Ore or something like that.

:hmm:

Senator Gilbert Hoare, Jr.
"Parasitic wasps laying eggs in other insects is a better love story than Twilight." - :bitzero:
"Anyhow, it was the best sentient food movie since Killer Tomatoes Eat France." - :flipper:
"lee marvin in drag is no way to spread the gospel, son." - TFJ
"It failed. My enemies have been purged." - Sidious
"It's not like there was ever a time I didn't think Rudy Giuliani was a smug gibbering imbecile." - random axe
"*drags taint* Oh cool, I didn't know you could do that." - mo.d

mo

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Re: DSCOVR / Triana / Whatever
« Reply #3 on: November 06, 2015, 05:42:42 PM »
As I was posting that link to the stuff about DSCOVR, I was wondering if/when/where you had talked about the project, because it sounded like something you had to be involved with. I even did a search on here, because I figured you had to have mentioned it, or at least talked about the launch, but the search was fruitless. Then after I posted it you didn't make any comment at all, I was wondering... WTF?

Thanks for the inside story. It really is fascinating.
It's symbolic of our struggle against reality.

Dr. Leonard HmofCoy

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Re: DSCOVR / Triana / Whatever
« Reply #4 on: November 06, 2015, 06:16:17 PM »
Hahah, yeah, too painful. But it's over now, damage done, whatever. Glad you liked it  ;)

"Parasitic wasps laying eggs in other insects is a better love story than Twilight." - :bitzero:
"Anyhow, it was the best sentient food movie since Killer Tomatoes Eat France." - :flipper:
"lee marvin in drag is no way to spread the gospel, son." - TFJ
"It failed. My enemies have been purged." - Sidious
"It's not like there was ever a time I didn't think Rudy Giuliani was a smug gibbering imbecile." - random axe
"*drags taint* Oh cool, I didn't know you could do that." - mo.d

phyre

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Re: DSCOVR / Triana / Whatever
« Reply #5 on: November 08, 2015, 06:55:44 PM »
"Like" may be too strong of a word. "Appreciate" is more fitting. "Deplore" may also work, in context.
So . . . you're saying I should be looking for a soft old plastic bucket. Man, dating sucks. Raxe
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Dr. Leonard HmofCoy

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Re: DSCOVR / Triana / Whatever
« Reply #6 on: March 16, 2017, 06:15:11 PM »
The follow-up mission is now on track for a 2020 launch unless the Republicans get back into the White House.

Gueeeeesssss what's cancelled! And so is DSCOVR. Surprise! I'll bet money to run DSCOVR will make its way back into the budget once all the telco people get off the phone with their pet Senators, but PACE is done. Goddard only had one Senator, and she retired. So.

My ex-boss basically said this is not so bad, because there will be money for R&A (what we actually do) that would have gone to the mission. I'll believe that when I get the Notice of Award letter, I tell you what.

In other news, we're fucked.
"Parasitic wasps laying eggs in other insects is a better love story than Twilight." - :bitzero:
"Anyhow, it was the best sentient food movie since Killer Tomatoes Eat France." - :flipper:
"lee marvin in drag is no way to spread the gospel, son." - TFJ
"It failed. My enemies have been purged." - Sidious
"It's not like there was ever a time I didn't think Rudy Giuliani was a smug gibbering imbecile." - random axe
"*drags taint* Oh cool, I didn't know you could do that." - mo.d

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Re: DSCOVR / Triana / Whatever
« Reply #7 on: March 16, 2017, 10:35:58 PM »
 :thumbsdn: :fyp:
"It all trickles down from the hot sex. I'm not saying you don't need cheese, just that if you concentrate on the hot sex, the cheese will follow. Naturally."--PsiDefect 03-19-2002 11:28 AM

mo

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Re: DSCOVR / Triana / Whatever
« Reply #8 on: March 17, 2017, 09:08:59 AM »
I've had to cut back on my news consumption again. I can't take the anxiety and anger. When I do watch, I keep the remote control very close.

I still watch local news though. It's just tame stuff like murders, fires, robberies, etc.
It's symbolic of our struggle against reality.

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Re: DSCOVR / Triana / Whatever
« Reply #9 on: March 17, 2017, 02:11:30 PM »
:thumbsdn:

This is what happens when your industry is insufficiently corrupt.

mo

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Re: DSCOVR / Triana / Whatever
« Reply #10 on: March 17, 2017, 06:00:47 PM »
And insufficiently militarized. I told him he needed frickin lazer beams.
It's symbolic of our struggle against reality.