A new space station sensor that will lay the foundation for future long-term observations of Earth’s climate is moving ahead, despite repeated attempts by President Donald Trump’s administration to kill it. Yesterday, amid a torrent of other news, NASA quietly announced it had awarded a $57 million contract to start building the instrument, which is scheduled to launch to the International Space Station (ISS) early next decade.
Last year, the Climate Absolute Radiance and Refractivity Observatory (CLARREO) Pathfinder was one of several earth science missions targeted by the new administration for cancellation. Although Congress ultimately rejected that request, it prompted NASA to halt work on the project in May 2017. But now, the agency said, it has awarded a contract to the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado (CU) in Boulder, to build CLARREO Pathfinder’s primary component, a specialized camera.
The revived mission joins several other earth science programs in surviving near-death threats. The Orbiting Carbon Observatory-3, which the Trump administration also proposed for cancellation, is now set to launch to the ISS in February 2019. Congress has drafted, though has not yet passed, language reinstating NASA’s Carbon Monitoring System. And the agency’s administrator, Jim Bridenstine, has pledged to follow the guidance of the earth science decadal survey, a consensus wish list of NASA missions compiled by earth scientists that has endorsed many of the missions targeted for cancellation or budget cuts.