Earth Surface and Interior Focus Area

ESI supports research and analysis of solid-Earth processes from crust to core.

The Earth Surface and Interior focus area (ESI) supports innovative, cross-cutting research into solid Earth processes and properties. ESI uses NASA’s unique global observations to better understand the Earth from its inner core to its outer lithospheric crust, as well as the dynamics between these component parts and the Earth’s atmosphere and ocean. This research provides the foundational data, measurements, and observations that help us understand Earth’s shape, motion, and magnetism, as well as the basis for products needed to inform the assessment, mitigation, and forecasting of natural hazards like earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, landslides, and more.

ESI Research Questions

ESI addresses the following overarching questions, identified in the NASA Challenges and Opportunities for Research in ESI (CORE) Report (2016 - PDF):

Big Sur Landslide
How do tectonic processes and climate variability interact to shape Earth’s surface and create natural hazards?
Kilauea satellite image
How do magmatic systems evolve, under what conditions do volcanoes erupt, and how do eruptions and volcano hazards develop?
What are the dynamics of Earth’s deep interior and how does Earth’s surface respond?
Magnetic Field
What are the dynamics of Earth’s magnetic field and its interactions with the rest of Earth’s systems?
Portland satellite image
How do human activities impact and interact with Earth’s surface and interior?
San Andreas Faultline
What is the nature of deformation associated with plate boundaries and what are the implications for earthquakes, tsunamis, and other related natural hazards?
Wallops coast
How does the solid Earth respond to climate-driven exchange of water among Earth systems and what are the implications for sea-level change?

ESI Associated Missions

The table below lists all the Earth missions that are relevant to the Earth Surface and Interior focus area in all phases.

Operating Satellites

In Development Satellites

Under Study Satellites

In Development Satellites

  • GEMX (Webpage not yet available)

Operating Ground-Based

Past Satellites

Past Suborbital/Airborne

Learn more about ESI

Research Programs

Space Geodesy Program

ESI oversees the Space Geodesy Program (SGP), which produces observations that refine our knowledge of Earth’s shape, rotation, orientation, and gravity. This information helps advance our understanding of the motion and rotation of tectonic plates, the elastic properties of the crust and mantle, interactions between the mantle and the core, solid Earth tides, and the effects of surface loading as a result of excess surface water, ground water, glaciers, and ice sheets. To accomplish this, SGP runs the NASA Global GNSS Network (GGN) and is developing, deploying, and operating the next generation NASA Space Geodetic Network (NSGN) of integrated, multi-technique, space geodetic observing systems.

This global geodetic infrastructure is made up of several core techniques including Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI), Satellite Laser Ranging (SLR), Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS), and Doppler Orbitography and Radiopositioning Integrated by Satellite (DORIS). The measurements these systems provide combined with data analysis capabilities help define the precise terrestrial reference frame that is foundational to many NASA Earth missions and location-based observations. SGP is a partnership between Goddard Space Flight Center, which leads the program’s major infrastructure development under the Space Geodesy Project, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and includes participation from the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and the University of Maryland.

ESI for Scientists

Scientific Meetings and Conferences

Research and Funding Opportunities

Solicited program elements relevant to ESI are publicized through the 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. Past, open, and future solicitations can be searched and viewed on NSPIRES.

Current solicitations of interest to the Earth Surface and Interior community:

NASA Research Resources, Associated Programs, and Partnerships

Access NASA data related to Earth Surface and Interior and learn more about center-level ESI programs and partnerships at the links below:

Guiding and Planning Documents

Distributed Active Archive Centers (DAACs)

NASA Center Programs

Interagency and International Partners

Contact ESI

Benjamin Phillips
Earth Surface and Interior Focus Area Lead
Space Geodesy Program Scientist
EMIT Program Scientist
Contact | Bio

Gerald Bawden
Global Water and Energy Cycle Focus Area Lead
NISAR Program Scientist
UAVSAR Program Scientist
Earth Surface and Interior Focus Area
Terrestrial Hydrology Program
Contact | Bio

Kevin Reath
Earth Surface and Interior Deputy Program Scientist
EMIT Deputy Program Scientist
Contact | Bio