A research team has provided ground-truth for a method of measuring plant photosynthesis on a global scale: from low-Earth orbit.
They have found that chlorophyll fluorescence, a faint glow produced by plant leaves as a byproduct of photosynthesis, is a strong proxy for photosynthetic activity in the canopy of a deciduous forest.
And they can track the changes in this dull forest glow in real time from space.
Here is one big reason we need to make sure we study the Earth from outer space. We now have a way to measure photosynthetic activity from space that will be able to inform us tremendously. And in ways that we cannot do from down here.
We will be able to measure day-to-day fluctuation in photosynthesis, measuring just what happens with higher temperature, pollution, humidity, and more.
The more we observe the Earth from space, the more we know about the Earth. So please let your federal representatives know how important examining the Earth from orbit can be.
Because many of them fail to understand that. Many seem to feel that geology or other geosciences are not hard science or even pure science. They are in the process of gutting research in this area while continuing to fund work for a monolithic spacecraft that has no real purpose and will be obsolete by the time it is eventually finished.
The engines will likely be out of date, if they are not already. Commercial collaborations between NASA and corporations already can lift mass to space cheaper than the SLS ever will, with one estimate of $5 billion per launch for the SLS!
The entire NASA budget is about $18 billion. So almost 1/3 of NASA’s budget would go for one launch of this SLS. Yet, Congress thinks this is a wonderful thing to fund, while it decimates and strangles the rest of NASA. It is increasing the budget for a spacecraft that may never be useful.
At the moment, only two proposed launches have cargo that is big enough to need this huge rocket. It is a massive battleship in the era of drones. Yet, the politicians have starved the NASA collaboration with companies so much that they have delayed progress by years.
In fact, our legislators have been forcing NASA to work on the SLS, even if NASA does not see the need, all the while they are telling NASA that is cannot work on other projects that are critically important.
I sure hate it when politicians micro-manage research, instead of letting those best qualified to decide. Because our tax dollars are going to provide jobs for people working on politically important projects while people working on scientifically important ones that fit NASA’s directive are being cut.
And even with this, the politicians are still not funding even the SLS fully, resulting in further delays for a project that is already becoming a white elephant. The politicians are guaranteeing that the money they want spent will be wasted on a project that cannot be completed while refusing to fund work with immediate payback.
They will only stop if we make them.
Image: Bruce Irving