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The View From Space
In 1990, NASA began developing Mission to Planet Earth (MTPE), an initiative aimed at using satellites to study the planet’s environment from space. With the Earth Observing System (EOS) as its technological cornerstone, MTPE’s main goal was to better understand fundamental processes such as climate change. The View from Space tells the remarkable story of this unprecedented convergence of science, technology, and policy in one of the most significant “Big Science” programs in human history.
Richard B. Leshner and Thor Hogan offer an engrossing behind-the-scenes look at how and why NASA managed to make an aggressive earth science research program part of the national agenda—an accomplishment made possible by the pragmatic and assertive efforts of the earth science community. This is the first book to focus on describing and analyzing the historical evolution of the MPTE/EOS initiative from its formative years in the 1980s to its political and technical struggles in the 1990s to its scientific successes in the 2000s. Though detailed in its coverage of science and technology, The View from Space is primarily concerned with questions of policy—specifically, how MTPE/EOS came to be, how it developed, and how its proponents navigated the fraught politics of the time. Compelling in its own right, this in-depth history of the initiative is also a valuable object lesson in how political, technical, and scientific infighting can shape a project of such national and global consequence—particularly in the age of climate change.
In Hydrocarbon Nation, Thor Hogan looks at how four technological revolutions—industrial, agricultural, transportation, and electrification—drew upon the enormous hydrocarbon wealth of the United States, transforming the young country into a nation with unparalleled economic and military potential.
Each of these advances engendered new government policies aimed at strengthening national and economic security. The result was unprecedented energy security and the creation of a nation nearly impervious to outside threats. However, when this position weakened in the decades after the peaking of domestic conventional oil supplies in 1970, the American political and economic systems were severely debilitated. At the same time, climate change was becoming a major concern.
Fossil fuels created the modern world, yet burning them created a climate crisis. Hogan argues that everyday Americans and policymakers alike must embrace the complexity of this contradiction in order to help society chart a path forward. Doing so, Hogan explains, will allow us to launch a critically important sustainability revolution capable of providing energy and climate security in the future. Hydrocarbon Nation provides reasons to believe that we can succeed in expanding on the benefits of the Hydrocarbon Age in order to build a sustainable future.
The rise of Space Exploration Initiative (SEI) and its eventual demise represents one of the landmark episodes in the history of the American space program. The story of this failed initiative is one shaped by key protagonists and critical battles. It is a tale of organizational, cultural, and personal confrontation. Skirmishes involved the Space Council versus NASA, the White House versus congressional appropriators, and the Johnson Space Center versus the rest of the space agency, all seeking control of the national space policy process. The demise of SEI was a classic example of a defective decision-making process that lacked adequate high-level policy guidance, failed to address critical fiscal constraints, developed inadequate programmatic alternatives, and garnered no congressional support. Some space policy experts have argued that SEI was doomed to fail, due primarily to the immense budgetary pressures facing the nation during the early 1990's. This book argues, however, that the failure of the initiative was not predetermined but was instead the result of a deeply flawed policy process that failed to develop (or even consider) policy options that may have been politically acceptable given the existing political environment.