Helping save the planetary space program

The entire universe in blog form
July 27 2012 7:00 AM

Helping save the planetary space program

You won't hear this from me much, but sometimes, just sometimes, I really love Congress. Especially my own Representative, Jared Polis (D-CO). Here's why.

A few months ago, President Obama and the White House came out with their 2013 budget for NASA. There were a lot of cuts, but most devastating was a $300 million slashing of the planetary sciences budget - a huge 20% reduction in funding. The Mars program alone got cut nearly 40%.

Phil Plait Phil Plait

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

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The planetary science community felt betrayed, and took action. Alan Stern, Principal Investigator of the Pluto New Horizons probe, organized a "NASA bake sale/shoe shine" to raise public awareness of what NASA and planetary exploration does. Here in Boulder (where Alan and I both live) we had a couple of stands set up, and we gave out information about the program. We also had pre-printed letters to key Congresscritters supporting a return of NASA's planetary exploration budget to previous levels - people signed those, we collected them, and then sent them to our Congressman, Jared Polis.

Representative Polis then delivered them to those other Reps.

I hadn't heard anything in a while, and then out of the blue, I get this tweet from Rep. Polis:

It says, "@BadAstronomer I gave shoe-shine letters 2 Reps Wolf & Schiff/their response http://youtu.be/CYwl3avGJD4 I'm a better Congressman than videographer"

The link goes to a YouTube video he made, and here it is:


How flipping awesome is that? The two Congressmen are Frank Wolf (R-VA 10th District) and Adam Schiff (D-Burbank - gotta love his website with the Griffith Observatory in LA as his banner!). I'm thrilled they took the time to respond and to appear on Rep. Polis's video. I am very thankful for their support, and I hope they can reinstate NASA's budget. I'll note I got a letter from Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison as well, sending her support. While I disagree with her over private space efforts like SpaceX, I'm glad to see her supporting NASA.

We need to explore. We must explore. It's part of what makes us human: our curiosity, our need to know, and our compulsion to understand. It's how we learn, and while we don't always know what we will learn, we do know that more knowledge is always better. And sometimes those investigations pay off multiple-fold.

Regular readers know I have my issues with this Congress. But here we see three Representatives and one Senator supporting NASA, and that's a difficult stance these days on Capitol Hill. I again thank them, and hope that in the coming year and those after, NASA receives the money it needs to do what it needs: explore the Universe.



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