Press Release

October 24, 2022
Cardin, Van Hollen, Hoyer Announce NASA Proposal to Continue University of Maryland-led GEDI Mission for Climate Change Research
Proposal follows lawmakers’ push to preserve at-risk mission

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen and Congressman Steny H. Hoyer (all D-Md.) announced that, following their efforts, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) has put forth a proposal for the continuation of the Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation (GEDI) mission on the International Space Station (ISS). The continuation of the mission will ensure it can finish collecting critical data on the role of the world’s forests in our fight against climate change. This development follows the lawmakers repeated engagement with NASA regarding the importance of this mission, including a letter urging NASA Administrator Bill Nelson earlier this year to extend the mission.

“The GEDI mission is a critical tool in our fight against climate change. That’s why we’ve fought to keep this mission alive, and why we’re glad to see NASA’s commitment to its vital contributions. Leading scientists at the University of Maryland and around the world count on the data it provides, and NASA’s efforts to continue this mission mean the scientific community will be able to access the information they need to make recommendations on how to most effectively confront climate change,” the lawmakers said. “We’re grateful Administrator Nelson is making every effort to ensure GEDI can finish its job.”

GEDI, which is operated by the University of Maryland in partnership with the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, is a high-resolution laser that scans and collects data on Earth’s forests and topography from the ISS, measuring carbon storage and changes resulting from land use and climate change. It was scheduled to be “de-orbited” from the ISS in early 2023 – before it completes its science requirements – and the ISS dock where it is currently installed will be utilized by a U.S. Department of Defense technology demonstration known as STP-H9.

The lawmakers had written to and spoken with NASA Administrator Nelson, urging him to explore potential options to delay GEDI’s decommissioning so that the mission may conclude its work. As a result, NASA has proposed storing the GEDI equipment on the ISS for 18 months while the STP-H9 demonstration is conducted, instead of releasing the equipment into space and allowing it to be destroyed. After STP-H9, GEDI will be re-installed to conclude its work. This proposed arrangement will now undergo a senior review by NASA’s Science Mission Directorate to verify feasibility of the proposal and that the GEDI mission will continue to yield valuable results. That review is scheduled to be conducted in December.