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Earth Systematic Missions

The Earth Systematic Missions (ESM) Program includes a broad range of multi-disciplinary science investigations aimed at developing a scientific understanding of the Earth system and its response to natural and human-induced forces. Understanding these forces will help in determining how to mitigate them, appropriately and where possible, to avoid climate changes.

The regional consequences of these forces--e.g., changes in precipitation patterns, length of growing seasons, severity of storms, change of sea level--must be understood to determine which aspects of climate change are most harmful and how to adapt to those changes that cannot be mitigated.

Anticipated outcomes of the ESM program include:

  • Progress in understanding and improving predictive capability for changes in the ozone layer, climate forcing, and air quality associated with changes in atmospheric composition.
  • Progress in enabling improved predictive capability for weather and extreme weather events.
  • Progress in quantifying global land cover change and terrestrial and marine productivity, and in improving carbon cycle and ecosystem models.
  • Progress in quantifying the key reservoirs and fluxes in the global water cycle and in improving models of water cycle change and fresh water availability.
  • Progress in understanding the role of oceans, atmosphere, and ice in the climate system and in improving predictive capability for its future evolution.
  • Progress in characterizing and understanding Earth surface changes and variability of the Earth’s gravitational and magnetic fields.
  • Progress in expanding and accelerating the realization of societal benefits from Earth system science.

The ESM program includes missions from the former Earth Observing System (EOS) and the future Earth Science Decadal Survey (ESDS) missions.

*Sort missions by clicking the column headers.

DivisionNameLaunch DatePhase
Heliophysics ACE
Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE) observes particles of solar, interplanetary, interstellar, and galactic origins, spanning the energy range from solar wind ions to galactic cosmic ray nuclei. This mission is part of SMD's Explorers Program. This mission is part of SMD's ...
19970825 August 25, 1997 3Operating
Earth Aqua
Aqua obtains a set of precise atmosphere and oceans measurements to understand their role in Earth's climate and its variations. Aqua carries six state-of-the-art instruments to observe the Earth's oceans, atmosphere, land, ice and snow covers, and vegetation, providing high ...
20020504 May 04, 2002 3Operating
Earth Aura
The Aura satellite hosts a suite of scientific instruments designed to make the most comprehensive measurements ever undertaken of atmospheric trace gases. Aura's objective is to study the chemistry and dynamics of the Earth's atmosphere with emphasis on the upper ...
20040715 July 15, 2004 3Operating
Earth CLARREO
The Climate Absolute Radiance and Refractivity Observatory (CLARREO) Mission has been recommended in the NRC Decadal Survey as a key component of the future climate observing system. This mission is part of SMD's Earth Systematic Missions program.
1Under Study
Earth Earth Observing-1 (NMP)
The NMP EO-1 mission is an advanced land-imaging mission that will demonstrate new instruments and spacecraft systems. EO-1 will validate technologies contributing to the significant reduction in cost of follow-on Landsat missions. The future of Earth science measurements requires that ...
20001121 November 21, 2000 3Operating
Earth GPM
GPM Constellation follows the success of Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) in initiating the measurement of global precipitation, a key climate factor. Its science objectives are: to improve ongoing efforts to predict climate by providing near-global measurement of precipitation, its ...
20140227 February 2014 3Operating
Earth GRIP
The Genesis and Rapid Intensification Processes (GRIP) experiment is a NASA Earth science field experiment in 2010 that will be conducted to better understand how tropical storms form and develop into major hurricanes. NASA plans to use the DC-8 aircraft, ...
20100815 August 15, 2010 4Past
Earth ICESat
ICESat (Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite) was the benchmark Earth Observing System mission for measuring ice sheet mass balance, cloud and aerosol heights, as well as land topography and vegetation characteristics. This mission is part of SMD's Earth Systematic ...
20030112 January 12, 2003 4Past
Earth ICESat-2
ICESat (Ice, Cloud,and land Elevation Satellite) is the benchmark Earth Observing System mission for measuring ice sheet mass balance, cloud and aerosol heights, as well as land topography and vegetation characteristics. This mission is part of SMD's Earth Systematic Missions ...
20160401 2016 2Development
Earth Jason-1
Jason was an oceanography mission to monitor global ocean circulation, improve global climate predictions, and monitor events such as El Nino conditions and ocean eddies. The Jason-1 satellite carried a radar altimeter, and it was a follow-on mission to the ...
20011207 December 07, 2001 4Past
Earth Landsat 7
Landsat 7 is a joint NASA/USGS mission that launched in April 1999 to extend the Landsat record of multispectral, medium resolution, seasonal global coverage or Earth's land surfaces. Since May 2003, a failed Scan Line Corrector has resulted in a ...
19990415 April 15, 1999 3Operating
Earth LDCM/Landsat 8
Landsat 8 is the latest NASA/USGS mission to extend the Landsat record of multispectral, medium resolution, seasonal global coverage or Earth's land surfaces.
20130211 February 11, 2013 3Operating
Earth OSTM
OSTM measures sea surface height to an accuracy of < 3.3 cm every ten days. Sea surface topography measured by satellite altimeters has numerous applications important to global environmental monitoring including predicting hurricane intensification, improving tide models, mapping deep ocean ...
20080620 June 20, 2008 3Operating
Earth QuikSCAT
QuikSCAT mission is intended to record sea-surface wind speed and direction data under all weather and cloud conditions over Earth's oceans. QuikSCAT was initiated as a "quick recovery" mission to help reduce the ocean-wind vector data gap created by the ...
19990619 June 19, 1999 3Operating
Earth SMAP
The Soil Moisture Active-Passive (SMAP) will use a combined radiometer and high-resolution radar to measure surface soil moisture and freeze-thaw state, providing for scientific advances and societal benefits. This mission is part of SMD's Earth Systematic Missions program.
20141030 October 2014 2Development
Earth SORCE
SORCE is a NASA-sponsored satellite mission that will provide state-of-the-art measurements of incoming x-ray, ultraviolet, visible, near-infrared, and total solar radiation. The measurements provided by SORCE specifically address long-term climate change, natural variability and enhanced climate prediction, and atmospheric ozone ...
20030125 January 25, 2003 3Operating
Earth Terra
Terra (formerly EOS AM-1) is the flagship satellite of NASA's Earth observing systems. Terra is the first EOS (Earth Observing System) platform and provides global data on the state of the atmosphere, land, and oceans, as well as their interactions ...
19991218 December 18, 1999 3Operating
Earth TRMM
TRMM is a joint mission between NASA and the National Space Development Agency (NASDA) of Japan. TRMM is particularly devoted to determining rainfall in the tropics and subtropics of the Earth. These regions make up about two thirds of the ...
19971127 November 27, 1997 3Operating