Investment in understanding the Earth pays off twice. It enables pursuit of scientific questions that rank among the most interesting and profound of our time. It also serves society's practical need for increased prosperity and security. Over the last half-century, we have built a sophisticated network of satellites, aircraft, and ground-based remote sensing systems to provide raw information from which we derive Earth knowledge. This network has served us well in the development of science and the provision of operational services. In the next decade, the demand for such information will grow dramatically. New remote sensing capabilities will emerge. Rapid evolution of Internet geospatial and location-based services will make communication and sharing of Earth knowledge easier. Governments, businesses, and consumers will all benefit. But this exciting future is threatened from many directions. Risks range from technology and market uncertainties in the private sector to budget cuts and project setbacks in the public sector. The coming decade will see a dramatic confrontation between the vision of what needs to be accomplished in Earth remote sensing and the reality of our resources and commitment. The outcome will have long-term implications for both the remote sensing community and society as a whole.