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Headshot of Bill Nye - Updated

An Open Letter to President Barack Obama

Mr. President, be bold and embrace a vision of planetary exploration at NASA

Posted by Bill Nye

05-12-2013 18:15 CST

Topics: FY2014 NASA Budget, Space Policy, podcasts and videos, Future Mission Concepts, Planetary Society Political Advocacy, Planetary Society Video, Bill Nye

Stand with Bill: Write the President and your Elected Officials

Mr. President,

The space program, NASA, is the best brand the United States has. Everywhere in the world, people respect and admire what NASA does. Right now, what NASA does best is explore the Solar System through the Planetary Science Program.

People around the world shared the seven minutes of terror as we lowered an extraordinary car bristling with extraordinary instruments onto the surface of Mars from a crane held aloft in that alien sky by rockets. Many thought it was impossible because nothing like it had ever been done before. You and your family remember applauding as a replica of that rover rolled by in the inaugural parade.

Over the last few years, Congress has added back funding for the planetary program that the Office of Management and Budget has cut. We all understand it's a push and pull process–a negotiation. But planetary science deserves special attention, because it is special. It is a remarkable value in which we should maintain or even increase our investment. We recommend that planetary science receive $1.5 billion dollars a year. That's less than 10 percent of NASA's budget, which in turn is less than 0.5% of the federal budget.

The planetary science division of the space program accomplishes extraordinary things, because it is extraordinary. We want to look for signs of life on other worlds, places like Jupiter's moon Europa and Saturn's moon Enceladus. That work is done by our planetary explorers, scientists and engineers, who really are seeking signs of life on another world. Such a discovery would be astounding. It would, as so many astronomical discoveries have, change the course of human history.

Planetary exploration not only brings us astonishing discoveries from other worlds, it inherently leads to innovation, because we invest in solving problems which have never been solved before. That in turn creates new businesses and economic growth. But more importantly, supporting a robust space program raises everyone's expectation of what's possible. With a space program, everyone in our society comes to believe and expect that any problem we face can be solved. It's inherently optimistic. It's part of our national character.

So Mr. President: we strongly recommend that you make sure that funding for the planetary science program is at least $1.5 billion dollars per year. It will keep our current missions flying, ensure we create new missions, and it will lead to amazing new innovations, new businesses, and new discoveries for our future. Investing in planetary science changes the world.

Thank you.

Bill Nye's Signature

Bill Nye
Chief Executive Officer
The Planetary Society

See other posts from December 2013


Or read more blog entries about: FY2014 NASA Budget, Space Policy, podcasts and videos, Future Mission Concepts, Planetary Society Political Advocacy, Planetary Society Video, Bill Nye


Telluric: 12/06/2013 02:35 CST

The planetary science community would gladly accept a budget of $1.5B, but the "Dear Mr President letter" is not enough. This Society and other space advocacy groups need to quickly create a panel of experts that can review the NASA budget, starting with e.g. $17B, and arrive at a better distribution of funds than what the politicians are forcing upon NASA now and what NASA is having to do internally. This society and others could draw on expert volunteers to create a better allocation of funds than the politicians of those subcommittees. During CxP, a group of engineers designed Direct 2.0 which became SLS. Today, COTS developments are overtaking SLS and Orion and it is the solution for saving planetary science(SMD). Today, news broke out on H.R. 3625. If this bill passes, then, for years, NASA planetary science (all of SMD) will pay the price of completing SLS/Orion. And Mars Society needs to push an alternative Design Ref. Mission Architecture using less costly launch vehicles.

M. Agost GB: 12/06/2013 10:34 CST

I doubt that the president read all letters.

Cardinal: 12/06/2013 12:04 CST

Short of NASA relocating all (literally) operations, including personnel, to Iowa and New Hampshire, getting any president's attention on this matter simply ain't happenin'. The trick is to make what's important to you important to the politician. There's nothing more sacred and precious to a politician than being elected. Our future would-be leaders would literally be stumbling over one another to win the NASA vote because it would comprise a significant portion of the electorate in the two states our would-be leaders covet most dearly. God bless America!

Scott Thomas: 12/07/2013 03:19 CST

I fully agree! We should be working on both interplanetary and interstellar probes to explore the planets and moons in our solar system and the exoplanets and exomoons in nearby solar systems. If, for example, we were willing to make the investment, we could design and build an interstellar probe to image the Alpha Centauri system and return images within twenty five years, and in the process, inspire a new generation of scientists and engineers.

Korleonis: 12/07/2013 04:52 CST

lol, we can't take care of ourselves and you what to go frolicking out in the solar system, lol sure why not, maybe they can find life on Mars and then make them register voters and tools for Mr. Obama's agenda.

NW_Rick: 12/07/2013 11:07 CST

Don't hold your breath waiting for this president to promote science and progress!

Fred Thurber: 12/09/2013 09:59 CST

Why did this administration squander over 700 billion on a pork-laden Stimulus bill but cannot find the money for planetary science?

Robert Altany: 12/11/2013 08:04 CST

Spending on space research employs people in manufacturing, design, science, engineering and in numerous support jobs. Economic activity would spread throughout the economy at large. It would not be great, as the space program is a tiny part of public spending; but the cost is correspondingly small. It might get our minds off celebrities and mortgage derivatives. Show something cool on all those big-screen TVs.

George: 12/11/2013 12:11 CST

I agree with NW_Rick -- the letter is great but a wasted effort. Wait until 2017. This administration couldn't care less about science. I was very disappointed with the Planetary Society gave such a gushingly warm welcome in 2008 to this administration. NASA financial loss is the price for such misplaced enthusiasm. It will take many years to get back all that has been lost in the last 5+ years.

Teslagirl: 12/14/2013 06:25 CST

Let's see if anything happens about the budget now the Chinese have landed a pretty sophisticated rover on the moon.

Thomas Prorok: 01/01/2014 06:05 CST

Laugh out loud? Really? Some said that about Columbus, the Wright broyhers Laugh out loud? I don't think so. Was Columbus frolicking? The future does not come cheap.

George: 01/02/2014 10:38 CST

Thomas, I believe the lol was really directed at the prospect of the Obama Administration actually stepping up to the plate and funding planetary research. We need a new administration in Washington to get back to priorities. Maybe the next Planetary Society CEO will be a trained scientist that will stop wasting time with silly grand standing like this and be able to speak passionately about their own research to spark interest (Steve Squires, perhaps?).

cyberTspaced: 01/30/2014 05:12 CST

As much as I loved Bill Nye the Science guy, I was saddened to see him as the new Planetary Society CEO campaigning for Obama especially when Obama was cutting funding for NASA. I don't care if he voted for him, but I think he crossed the line by stumping for a incumbent President as the CEO of this outstanding community. Personally, I think Obama would only care about Science and Space discovery if he felt it would improve his golf game.

Manuel Rivas Bastante: 01/31/2014 04:32 CST

Maybe this is like Columbus trying to get enough money to fund his discovery of America. No investiment, no discoveries. I, as many like me thinking that space exploration is a basis in our human development and destiny, think that NASA should be really, really, funded like a first priority goal. USA is leader of human dreams. Excuse my poor english. ;)

Becca Dames, MSU: 02/04/2014 03:57 CST

I think a letter is great start in the direction of progress; it is much better than most of these negative comments that inevitably only set humanity, in its entirety, back. People sadly do not show enough gratitude or passion for things they care about. Bill Nye is a charismatic speaker who ignites inspiration into the nation's youth, and that is something to be admired, and appreciated for. Rock on and long live Science :-)

Lilith: 02/05/2014 07:44 CST

I want to just say that if more serious efforts were put into space, I think that could create jobs. I feel that somewhere along the way as lawyers in Washington, they don't have the same agenda as if there were scientists....I mean, we are missing the rest is not about just attorneys and these are the people making decisions for the rest of us on some issues that really are minor life decisions that should be on the backburner. If there were more people IN Washington who were scientists, engineers, mathematicians (do economists count really?) Then and only then do I feel that space exploration or other innovations could come to the forefront for America. We were once a world leader for many great things including manufacturing, then turned into a consumer society. We could be switching gears and making jobs for people doing space exploration and other scientific endeavors. I just don't think anyone really looks at it from that perspective up there in D.C.

Mr. Collins: 05/20/2015 05:58 CDT

Keep up the pressure! Hopefully you can convince the POTUS and Congress to increase Planetary Science and NASA funding.

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