NASA’s Earth Science Division (ESD) advances our scientific understanding of the Earth as a system and its response to natural and human-induced changes in order to improve our ability to predict climate, weather, and natural hazards, and to meet the challenges of environmental change. Our planet is changing on all spatial and temporal scales and studying the Earth as a complex system is essential to understanding the causes and consequences of global to local environmental changes. ESD addresses the issues and opportunities of environmental changes and climate risks by answering the following key science questions through its program elements:
• How is the global Earth system changing?
• What causes these changes in the Earth system?
• How will the Earth system change in the future?
• How can Earth system science provide societal benefit?
One of the key elements ESD uses to address these science questions is the Flight Program. Its Flight Program consists of a coordinated series of satellite and airborne missions for long-term global observations of the land surface, biosphere, solid Earth, atmosphere, and oceans. The Flight Program also includes infrastructure for operating these missions, processing their scientific data, and distributing them on a free and open basis to researchers, operational users, and the public. The Flight Program currently has 25 operating Earth observing space missions. There are 16 more missions and instruments planned for launch over the next five years. These comprise missions recommended by the National Academies 2017 Earth Science Decadal Survey, missions and selected instruments to ensure availability of key climate data sets, operational missions to sustain land imaging provided by the Landsat system, and small-sized competitively selected orbital and instrument missions of opportunity belonging to the Earth Venture (EV) program. Recently launched missions include the ICESat-2 spacecraft and two International Space Station (ISS) hosted instruments, the Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation (GEDI) LIDAR and the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-3 (OCO-3) spectrometer. Projects in development include the Sentinel-6A/B dual satellite altimetry mission; Landsat 9; the Pre-Aerosol, Cloud, and ocean Ecosystem (PACE) mission; the NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar (NISAR); the Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) mission; Tropospheric Emissions: Monitoring of Pollution (TEMPO); the Timed-Resolved Observations of Precipitation structure and storm Intensity with a Constellation of Smallsats (TROPICS) CubeSat constellation mission; the Multi-angle Imager for Aerosols (MAIA) pollution monitoring instrument; the Geostationary Carbon Cycle Observatory (GeoCARB); the Earth surface Mineral dust source InvesTigation (EMIT) spectrometer hosted on ISS; and the Polar Radiant Energy in the Far InfraRed Experiment (PREFIRE) CubeSat constellation mission. The 2017 Earth Science Decadal Survey recommends four new Flight Program elements (Designated, Explorer, and Incubation Targeted Observables) in addition to the above activities that comprise the Program of Record (POR). Multi-Center architecture studies for the Designated Targeted Observables and plans to address the other Flight Program elements are underway. An overview of Flight Program plans and current status will be presented.