NASA's Science Mission Directorate's Earth-Sun System Division (ESSD) uses the unique vantage point of space to understand and explore Earth and the Sun. The relationship between the Sun and the Earth is at the heart of a complex, dynamic system that researchers do not yet fully understand. The Earth-Sun system is comprised of diverse components that interact in complex ways, requiring unique capabilities for characterizing, understanding, and predicting change. Therefore, researchers need to understand the Sun, the heliosphere, and Earth's atmosphere, lithosphere, hydrosphere, cryosphere, and biosphere as a single connected system. At the center of the solar system is the Sun, a magnetically variable star. This variability has impacts on life and technology that are felt here on Earth and throughout the solar system. NASA is working to understand this planetary system because it is the only star-planet system researchers can investigate in detail. Using NASA's view from space to study the Earth-Sun system, researchers also can better predict critical changes to Earth and its space environment. NASA's ESSD has a critical role in implementing three major national directives:
- Climate Change Research via Climate Change Science Program
- Global Earth Observation System of Systems via the U.S. Group on Earth Observations (US GEO)
- Vision for Space Exploration
NASA Earth-Sun system science conducts and sponsors research, collects new observations from space, develops technologies and extends science and technology education to learners of all ages. NASA now has a system of spacecraft with the ability to characterize the current state of the Earth-Sun system. In the years ahead, NASA's fleet will evolve into constellations of smart satellites that can be reconfigured based on the changing needs of science and technology. From there we envision an intelligent and integrated observation network composed of sensors deployed in vantage points from the subsurface to deep space. Technical and programmatic details and status of representative Earth-Sun system missions will be presented.