The US Government has responded to a petition to "secure resources and funding, and begin construction of a Death Star by 2016."
The Administration shares your desire for job creation and a strong national defense, but a Death Star isn't on the horizon. Here are a few reasons:
- The construction of the Death Star has been estimated to cost more than $850,000,000,000,000,000.
- We're working hard to reduce the deficit, not expand it.
- The Administration does not support blowing up planets.
- Why would we spend countless taxpayer dollars on a Death Star with a fundamental flaw that can be exploited by a one-man starship?
. . . .Even though the United States doesn't have anything that can do the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs, we've got two spacecraft leaving the Solar System and we're building a probe that will fly to the exterior layers of the Sun. We are discovering hundreds of new planets in other star systems and building a much more powerful successor to the Hubble Space Telescope that will see back to the early days of the universe.Which brings Rabett Run to the point of this post. Somewhat under the radar, DSCOVR nee Triana aka Goresat has been taken out of mothballs and readied for launch in 2014. Al Gore's original concept was to place a satellite in a stable position at the Lagrange point L1 to beam back real time pictures of the whole Earth. While the science basis of the concept was, shall Eli say, lacking, the social implications were strong as was clear to anyone who thought about the effect that the original and newer blue marble images have had on support for the space program, science and most importantly understanding of how the Earth system is complex, beautiful and isolated. IEHO, opposition to Triana was driven by those who were determined to avoid such an outcome. Well that and the science lack, however, it was quickly realized that there was important science to be done from a satellite looking at the whole Earth from L1, in particular measurements of the whole disc albedo and total IR emission and TRIANA was reconfigured (e.g. the instrumentation). Of course, the Bush administration was never going to let DSCOVR be launched. DeSmog has a continuing series on the politics surrounding the mission cancellation, but although the mission was cancelled, the satellite was mothballed and sat in a warehouse at the Goddard Space Flight Center in "stable suspension".
Which brings Rabett Run to 2011, when it was realized that ACE, the primary satellite that observes space weather (e.g. energetic particles, etc emitted from the sun) was twelve years beyond its due date and likely to fail soon. While space weather produces spectacular displays in the sky, Earth beings also have come to rely on assets, such as Earth weather satellites, GPS systems and more which are subject to damage and shutdown from space weather. NOAA and NASA were very concerned. They realized that while DSCOVR was earth facing, being at L1 it was also sun facing and had in its original configuration appropriate instrumentation. DSCOVR offered the right mission configuration, and even better it was already built so it could be, in terms of normal process, relatively rapidly launched.
Some administrative ju-jitsu was applied to the mission description
Continue solar wind measurements in support of space weather requirements providing 3-dimensional distribution function of the proton and alpha components of the solar wind; 3-dimensional magnetic field vector and 3-dimensional electron velocity distribution. Secondary objective is to observe the Earth from the unique Earth-Sun L1 perspective. Tertiary objective is to measure the energetic particle environment.Quang-Viet Nguyen gave a mission briefing last February. The instruments NOAA wants to fly are
Primary Mission Instruments required by NOAA (“Threshold Requirement”):The Earth Observation instrumentation suite
• Faraday Cup to measure the time-resolved 3-dimensional distribution
function of the proton and alpha components of the solar wind plasma
• Fluxgate Magnetometer to measure the 3-dimensional magnetic field vector
of the solar wind
Secondary Mission (“Objective Requirements” – optional ):The potential catch is that
• Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC)
- Global Ozone Levels• NIST Advanced Radiometer (NISTAR) measures UV, visible, and IR reflected solar irradiance
- Aerosol Index and Aerosol Optical Depth
- Cloud Height over Land and Ocean
- Vegetation Index and Leaf Area Index
- UV Surface Radiation
- Aerosol and Ozone Plume Tracking
• Electron Spectrometer (electrostatic analyzer 3 eV to 3 keV range)
• Pulse Height Analyzer (PHA) monitors effect of high energy particles on spacecraft electronics
• NASA does not have any appropriations to expend on DSCOVR, henceThe good news is that the launch contract has been signed with Space X
direction as to which instruments will fly are at NOAA’s discretion.