The evolution of the NASA Earth Observing System: A case study in policy and project formulation
In 1990, Congress authorized $132 million in new appropriations for NASA to begin development of its Earth Observing System (EOS), the technological cornerstone of the agency's new research initiative, Mission to Planet Earth (MTPE). Mission to Planet Earth was a research program aimed at using satellites to monitor the Earth's environment from space and answer scientific questions about fundamental Earth processes like weather and climate. At that time the projected budget for EOS was approximately $17 billion over ten years, and NASA planned to launch a series of 6 large satellites over a 15-year period. The first two large polar-orbiting EOS satellites were planned for launch in 1998. After this initial appropriation of funds by Congress in 1990, the Earth Observing System program immediately began to undergo significant changes. Starting in 1991 the program was forced to reduce its projected budget from $17 billion to $11 billion, leading to significant redesigns and a modification of the program's goals. This "restructuring" effort was followed by three more budget reducing efforts, the last of which, called "reshaping," occurred in 1995. NASA's plans for six very large satellites over 15 years were changed; NASA instead planned to launch a constellation of smaller satellites over a shorter period of time and abandoned long-term plans for EOS satellite launches. This dissertation will reconstruct a detailed history of the events surrounding the EOS program in an effort to determine why NASA pursued a major new research initiative in Earth science and why that initiative was subject to a great deal of change over a fairly short period of time. The dissertation will utilize agenda setting literature and literature on bureaucratic organizations to provide insight into NASA's decision making.