NASA’s Earth Science Division (ESD) unlocks the mysteries of our planet, exploring, discovering, and responding to the need to understand our planet’s interconnected systems, from a global scale to minute processes. This knowledge and understanding serves the fundamental need to improve our lives on Earth, advancing this frontier for all humanity. NASA pursues both curiosity-driven and practically focused Earth science because our ability to thrive on our home planet is undeniably tied to our scientific understanding and predictive capability of its dynamics and phenomena. ESD explores our rapidly changing world, where natural and human factors interact, following an interdisciplinary, Earth systems approach that examines the interplay among the atmospheric, ocean, land, and ice systems. Using the recommendations of the 2017 NASA Earth Science Decadal Survey, Thriving on Our Changing Planet a Decadal Strategy for Earth Observation from Space, as a compass, ESD is developing the observing systems that will answer the most important science and application questions of the next decade across the following focus areas:
• Coupling of the water and energy cycles
• Ecosystem change
• Extending and improving weather and air quality forecasts
• Reducing climate uncertainty and informing societal response
• Sea-level rise
• Surface dynamics, geological hazards and disasters
The ESD Flight Program develops and operates the observing systems required to address these focus areas. It 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 encompasses 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 24 operating Earth observing space missions and instruments. There are 18 more missions and instruments in development. These comprise missions recommended by the 2017 NASA 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. Projects in development include the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich/-B dual satellite altimetry mission; with its first launch scheduled for November 2020 and the recently selected Libera Earth radiation budget (ERB) instrument planned to be hosted on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Joint Polar Satellite System-3 (JPSS-3) spacecraft. Libera is the first of the new Earth Venture Continuity class of missions promoting innovative, capable approaches to acquiring existing Climate Data Record (CDR) measurement sets at lower cost. The 2017 Earth Science Decadal Survey recommended four new Flight Program elements (Designated, Explorer, and Incubation Targeted Observables) in addition to the legacy missions that comprise the Program of Record (POR). Multi-Center architecture studies for the Designated Targeted Observables and plans to address the other new Flight Program elements are underway. An overview of Flight Program plans and current status will be presented.