NASA Headquarters, Washington, DC
January 21, 1998
NASA has renamed the Mission to Planet Earth enterprise the Earth Science enterprise. The Earth Science enterprise is one of the four strategic enterprises of the Agency, responsible for a long-term, coordinated research effort to study the total Earth system and the effects of natural and human-induced changes on the global environment.
In announcing the change of name, Acting Associate Administrator for Earth Science William Townsend said, "We feel that 'Earth Science' more clearly conveys to the American people the goals of our program, and more directly focuses on the research that we're conducting. 1998 will include several major launches in the enterprise, including the first Earth Observing System missions, and we are pleased to enter this era with the new name."
The Earth Science enterprise is pioneering the emerging discipline of Earth system science, with a near-term emphasis on global climate change. Earth science research capabilities under development will yield a variety of new scientific understandings and practical benefits to humankind.
The goals of the Earth Science enterprise are to expand scientific knowledge of the Earth system using NASA's unique vantage points of space, aircraft, and in situ platforms, creating an international capability to forecast and assess the health of the Earth system; to widely disseminate information about the Earth system; and to enable the productive use of Earth science results and related technology in the public and private sectors.
The title "Mission to Planet Earth" originated ten years ago in a report on future directions for the U.S. civil space program by a commission led by former astronaut Dr. Sally Ride. The term and the concept of looking at Earth as NASA looks at other planets were furthered by the 1990 Report of the Advisory Committee on the Future of the U.S. Space Program, prepared by a team of experts chaired by Dr. Norman Augustine. Since that time, NASA has organized its activities into four strategic enterprises, including Human Exploration and Development of Space, Aeronautics and Space Transportation, and Space Science.
In a manner similar to the way that the Space Science enterprise has been broadened to include questions about the origins and destiny of the Universe, the Mission to Planet Earth enterprise has been reshaped to answer key questions in five major Earth system science disciplines: land surface cover, near-term and long-term climate change, natural hazards research and atmospheric ozone.
The renaming of the enterprise to "Earth Science" is effective immediately. NASA will continue to use all supplies, such as stationery, that bear the former name of "Mission to Planet Earth" until such supplies are depleted, so as to avoid any unnecessary cost to the Agency.
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