I'm breaking out of a long-planned vacation to share some great news with everyone. Congress just passed a bill that achieves essentially every major policy goal of the Planetary Society in regards to NASA's Planetary Science program.
On March 21st, the U.S. House of Representatives passed HR933, the Senate's version of a spending bill to fund the federal government for the rest of the year. Contained in this bill is new language restoring more than $200 million to NASA's Planetary Science program, reversing the vast majority of cuts proposed in President Obama's 2013 budget request. The President still needs to sign this bill to make it law, but that is expected to happen within the next few days.
The bill also specifically funds Plutonium-238 production, required for deep-space missions, and pre-formulation activities for a major mission to Europa. Also restored is a significant funding for the small planetary mission program, Discovery, which should increase the pace of these small, effective missions and move the next opportunity up to 2014 (from 2015 or 2016). I discuss in detail all of benefits here, in an earlier post.
This funding is still subject to the sequester, as is NASA's entire budget, which suffers an overall cut of almost $1 billion in this bill from the President's 2013 budget request. There is still a long way to go to ensure a strong future of exploration in the United States. We've won the battle, but 2014 and the future years remain ahead.
But still, this is huge news. I can't thank you enough for the work you've done in reaching out to Congress and the President to help defend this effective, exciting, and affordable division within NASA. Over sixty-thousand of our members and other supporters wrote and called their representatives and the President in support of this issue. Congress heard you. Our voices made a difference.