Thanks to incredibly shrinking satellites and launch costs, thousands of satellites are sending down streams of data about the state of our planet. But how much effort is going into making sense of all that data?
Not enough, leaders of the commercial space industry said this week at The Economist’s “New Space Age” conference in Seattle. And therein lies an opportunity.
The data gap is so wide that former NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver, who is now executive director of the Air Line Pilots Association, half-jokingly suggested that the space agency could hold up on launching new Earth science missions and focus instead on analyzing the results from existing missions.
So many commercial ventures are getting into Earth observation, remote sensing and telecommunications that the U.S. government will have to think twice about how it adds still more satellites to the mix.
“If the government builds another imaging or communications satellite, they are stealing from the American people, and our future,” Garver said Thursday during a panel discussion at Seattle’s Museum of Flight.
After the talk, Garver told GeekWire that mission managers aren’t allocating nearly enough money in their budgets for satellite data analysis.
“For Earth science analytics, you start out hoping for between 5 and 10 percent, and that gets shrunk over time,” she said. “I think we should focus more than half the budget on data. The analysis should drive the Earth science budgets.”