Dr. Bruce Wielicki, Senior Earth Scientist, Langley Research Center, Hampton, VA

Dr. Bruce Wielicki, senior Earth scientist within the Science Directorate at Langley Research Center, works as lead of the Climate Absolute Radiance and Refractivity Observatory (CLARREO) mission. The Tier-1 earth science decadal survey initiative will anchor a future climate observing system.

NASA Tech Briefs: What is the CLARREO mission?

Dr. Bruce Wielicki: CLARREO is a mission to take us into a new level of accuracy of instruments in orbit. CLARREO takes some of these high-accuracy infrared and reflected solar capabilities that we’ve built in the laboratories and some of the NASA research centers, and gets them up into orbit —NTB: How do these tools ensure accurate results?

Dr. Wielicki: When we build instruments normally, we’re trying to see the whole Earth at really high resolutions — —  NTB: Where does the CLARREO mission stand currently, and how have budget cuts changed the plans?

Dr. Wielicki: That’s been the bad news for us. The science itself has been extraordinary, and we’ve spent about three years really well determining the science requirements. We have the climate modeling community involved, so we’re actually simulating the CLARREO observations in climate models. We can actually show over 100 years in model simulation what CLARREO would have seen, and what it could have told us about climate change.

Just as we were ready to knock on the door that was going to start this mission formally, that’s when the budget cuts to NASA’s science program came. So we’re now on indefinite hold, and instead of having a launch date in 2017 or 2018, we’re now kind of idling. Instead of marching toward a mission date, what we’re doing is continuing to extend the accuracy of the climate studies, in particular these climate models, and retire some of the risks in technology.


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