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):
How do tectonic processes and climate variability interact to shape Earth’s surface and create natural hazards?
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?
What are the dynamics of Earth’s magnetic field and its interactions with the rest of Earth’s systems?
How do human activities impact and interact with Earth’s surface and interior?
What is the nature of deformation associated with plate boundaries and what are the implications for earthquakes, tsunamis, and other related natural hazards?
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.
Learn more about ESI
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 News and Information
Outside Feature | September, 2019
In the Davis Mountains of far west Texas astronomers spend their nights peering at the stars through some of the world’s most powerful telescopes. Soon they’ll be adding a more down-to-Earth job. Within sight of the giant domes, NASA is installing a sprawling network of equipment to help researchers study planetary change.
R&A Explainer | July 2, 2019
NASA’s Earth Science Research and Analysis program’s ESI focus area supports research and analysis of solid-Earth processes from crust to the core. This includes research on how the solid Earth interacts with the storage, movement, and transport of freshwater around the planet.
Earth Observatory | June 25, 2019
Unlike some of its perpetually active neighbors on the Kamchatka Peninsula, Raikoke Volcano on the Kuril Islands rarely erupts. The small, oval-shaped island most recently exploded in 1924 and in 1778.
ESI for Scientists
Scientific Meetings and Conferences
Solid Earth Team (SET) Meeting
4-6 November 2019
Scripps Seaside Forum; La Jolla, California
See the SET Meeting website for details.
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:
- A.7: ECOSTRESS Science and Applications Team
- A.27: Earth Surface and Interior 2019
- A.29: Science Team for the NASA ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar
- A.32: Interdisciplinary Research in Earth Science (Subelement 1: Volcanoes in the Earth System)
- A.37: Global Navigation Satellite System Research
- A.53: Utilization of Airborne L- and S-Band Synthetic Aperture Radar Imagery over North America – Joint NASA and ISRO Airborne Campaign
- A.54 Decadal Survey Incubation Study Teams: Surface Topography and Vegetation
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:
- 2017 Earth Science Applications from Space
- 2016 Challenges and Opportunities for Research in ESI (CORE) Report (PDF)
- 2007 Earth Science Applications from Space
- Alaska Satellite Facility (ASF): Synthetic aperture radar imagery and products
- Crustal Dynamics Data Information System (CDDIS): Global geodetic data
- Earth Resource Observation and Science Center (EROS): Imagery and products from NASA’s Earth Observing System
- Airborne Science Program
- Applied Sciences Disasters Program
- Goddard Space Flight Center Geodesy and Geophysics Laboratory
- Goddard Space Flight Center Space Geodesy Project
- Jet Propulsion Laboratory Earth Surface and Interior
- Land-Cover / Land-Use Change Program
- Earth Sciences (EAR), National Science Foundation
- EarthScope (Inactive)
- Global Geodetic Observing System
- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
- U.S. Geological Survey Natural Hazards