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Earth Surface & Interior

NASA’s Earth Surface and Interior focus area (ESI) supports research and analysis of solid-Earth processes and properties from crust to core. The overarching goal of ESI is to use NASA’s unique capabilities and observational resources to better understand core, mantle, and lithospheric structure and dynamics, and interactions between these processes and Earth’s fluid envelopes.

ESI studies provide the basic understanding and data products needed to inform the assessment, mitigation, and forecasting of the natural hazards, including phenomena such as earthquakes, tsunamis, landslides, and volcanic eruptions. These investigations also exploit the time-variable signals associated with other natural and anthropogenic perturbations to the Earth system, including those associated with the production and management of natural resources.

Research Questions
Earth Surface & Interior addresses the following overarching questions, identified in the NASA Solid Earth Science Working Group (SESWG) report Living on a Restless Planet (2002):

  1. What is the nature of deformation at plate boundaries and what are the implications for earthquake hazards?
  2. How do tectonics and climate interact to shape the Earth’s surface and create natural hazards?
  3. What are the interactions among ice masses, oceans, and the solid Earth and their implications for sea level change?
  4. How do magmatic systems evolve and under what conditions do volcanoes erupt?
  5. What are the dynamics of the mantle and crust and how does the Earth’s surface respond?
  6. What are the dynamics of the Earth’s magnetic field and its interactions with the Earth system?

Space Geodesy Program

ESI’s Space Geodesy Program (SGP) was initiated in 2011 with the long-range goal of building, deploying, and operating a next generation NASA Space Geodetic Network (NSGN) of integrated, multi-technique space geodetic observing systems. This infrastructure enables the establishment and maintenance of a precise terrestrial reference frame that is foundational to many Earth missions and location-based observations.SGP produces observations that refine our knowledge of Earth’s shape, rotation, orientation, and gravity, advancing our understanding of the motion and rotation of tectonic plates, elastic properties of the crust and mantle, mantle-core interactions, solid Earth tides, and the effects of surface loading resulting from surface water, ground water, glaciers, and ice sheets. SGP is a partnership between Goddard Space Flight Center and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, with participation from the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and the University of Maryland.

Associated Earth Science Division Missions, Instruments, and Data Sets
The current and planned missions shown below are directly relevant to the Earth Surface & Interior focus area:

OPERATING Satellite Missions

LAGEOS 1 & 2

Landsat 7

LDCM/ Landsat 8



  Suborbital Investigations



FORMULATION Satellite Missions


GRACE Follow-On




ROSES Solicitations

For solicited program elements relevant to Earth Surface & Interior, search for and view open, closed, and future Research Opportunities in Space and Earth Sciences (ROSES) NASA Research Announcements (NRAs) on the NASA Solicitation and Proposal Integrated Review and Evaluation System (NSPIRES) website.

Relevant Sites
Topics relevant to Earth Surface & Interior are also being pursued through the following:

NASA Applied Sciences Programs

NASA Center Organizations

Interagency / International Activities

Program Managers

Benjamin Phillips
Earth Surface & Interior Program
Focus Area Lead

Craig Dobson
Earth Surface & Interior Program
Space Archaeology Program
Geodetic Imaging Program

Gerald Bawden
Earth Surface & Interior Program
Terrestrial Hydrology Program

Thomas Johnson
Earth Surface & Interior Program
Space Geodesy Program
Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS)