"Protect the Earth" No Longer Part of NASA's Mission
In 2002, early in the current Bush administration, NASA's chief at the time, Sean O'Keefe, created a mission statement which read: “To understand and protect our home planet; to explore the universe and search for life; to inspire the next generation of explorers ... as only NASA can.” It seems in February of this year the phrase "To understand and protect our home planet" was quitely dropped.
It could be that the change is a reflection of President Bush's stated objectives of returning to manned exploration of the Moon and beyond. But could it also be a way to deflect attention from those pesky NASA scientists who are among the leaders in warning about impending climate change?
Using space to study Earth has always been a key aspect of the NASA agenda, mission statement or not. Think of that first image of the entire planet from Apollo 9, think of a generation of Earth imaging from Landsat and other satellites, think of GPS technology. I think having our space agency keep a watchful eye on the home world remains an important aspect of the mission.