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[Updated] Good Planetary Support in A Flawed NASA Bill

Posted by Casey Dreier

02-05-2015 7:45 CDT

Topics: FY2016 NASA Budget, Planetary Society Political Advocacy

Update 2015-05-05: The Planetary Society has released a full statement on H.R. 2039.

Update 2015-04-30: The House Science Committee passed the bill on a party line vote with the authorization levels unchanged. Its next step is a vote in the full House of Representaties.

The House released a draft bill the other day that would authorize NASA funding for the years 2016 and 2017 (authorizing bills generally set policy and spending limits, but do not actually provide money).

Marcia Smith at SpacePolicyOnline has a good analysis of the overall bill. But here are a few highlights: 

  • Planetary Science gets a very good authorization: $1.5 billion for both years and specific priority in a reduced budget scenario.
  • Earth Science takes a big hit, dropping by about $300 million from 2015 and nearly $500 million below the 2016 request by the President.
  • SLS/Orion is authorized at a high level, basically by the amount removed from Earth Science.
  • NASA itself is authorized at the President's requested level, which is an increase from 2015 and grows with inflation in 2017.

Obviously, the cuts to Earth Science make this a hard bill to support, therefore The Planetary Society cannot support the full bill as written at this early stage. We want an Authorization bill for NASA that can pass Congress and be signed by the White House, we hope that the committee markup will find ways to preserve and grow all science as this moves forward. 

The Planetary Science numbers, however, are very good, as is the language relating to the frequency of planetary science missions. We submitted a letter to the House Science Committee that acknowledged these important additions and support of Planetary Science. This has been seen by some as full throated support for the full bill. It is not, but we believe that good language is good language, and the planetary numbers deserve support. We hope this planetary language makes it in to the both the Senate and House versions of this bill, as well as improved support for science overall.

See other posts from May 2015


Or read more blog entries about: FY2016 NASA Budget, Planetary Society Political Advocacy


Anzenmaster: 04/29/2015 03:51 CDT

What's the problem with cutting earth science? Man-caused global warning is certain, and we are ll doomed!

Atom: 04/29/2015 05:41 CDT

Earth science gets cut back to about the same level as planetary science. Planetary science realises an increase over the Presidents budget. A good start to a final budget.

Arbitrary: 04/30/2015 05:07 CDT

Going around in circles and looking down is not what NASA was created to do. Farmers can finance their own ground watching satellites, if they do any good. That's nothing that NASA should waste real science money on subsidizing. Instead of all the billions wasted on looking down, NASA could've financed another JWST type space telescope, or a lunar lander. It is irritating to see this silly and coward political correctness of the Planetary Society. Bill Nye said on Planetary Radio the other day that he wasted precious time with the president talking about that 2012-style doomsday myth called "global warming" (+0 degrees in 20 years, yeah, we're boiling!) instead of inspiring him about space research and exploration. That was severely incompetent! The president if anyone is tired to death about that false doomsday panic. I bet the president immediately shut off his brain as soon as he heard Bill Nye say "climate change" (oh no, that's the tenth guy nagging about that old myth today! I really feel that I need to get rid of the Planetary Society.)

Mark: 04/30/2015 09:29 CDT

Earth is a planet. I was shocked by your letter endorsing a portion of the House markup while making no mention whatsoever about the severe cuts to Earth science. I would like for you to relate why you think your ringing endorsement of a disastrous markup is a good idea for this society, before I withdraw my membership and support of TPS.

dougforworldsexplr : 04/30/2015 10:02 CDT

I am quite pleased with this house authorization bill. I am glad there is a high level of funding for Planetary Science. I am also glad that there is a good level of funding for the Space Launch System. I checked the bill myself and was especially glad to see that Congress hopes to launch the SLS first test flight in 2017 instead of 2018. I was also glad that manned landings on the Moon should be considered for the SLS but the ultimate goal will be to bring astronauts to Mars. I hope this lunar surface objective can be met more at least with future presidents if Obama won't allow it in his presidency.

Arbitrary: 05/01/2015 01:40 CDT

@Mark, Thus far CO2 emissions have only had good consequences. Harvests are increasing so fast that no new farmland is needed inspite of growing world population. And wildlife is enjoying the greening of Earth which our emissions are causing. The hypothesis that the temperature will increase has not yet been confirmed, the climate can be much more complex than a straight relationship between CO2 and temperature, all computer model based predictions have already been falsified well beyond 2 standard deviations. Even more uncertain is the speculation that rising temperature could have bad consequences. And plain wrong is the idea that it would be better to abolish space flight, abolish transportation, abolish energy, abolish industry, abolish agriculture than to adapt to any climate changes, such as we always have done. St Petersburg, Venice and Holland have always been under the sea water level, it is not the end of the world. Recent interview with Freeman Dyson:

ToSeek: 05/01/2015 01:27 CDT

@Arbitrary: Even if all your claims are true (which they're not - for one thing, the models are by and large still within the margin of error), it scarcely makes sense to stop investigating weather and climate. That those of a certain political leaning want that to happen suggest that they'd just as soon not know what the climate is doing for fear they might need to do something about it.

Arbitrary: 05/02/2015 07:30 CDT

@ToSeek Searching for global warming is like searching for the aether. There are no evidence of it! And anyway, NASA should go and look outwards, not circling Earth to look inwards. Earth science is per definition not the purpose of NASA. It would only be good for space research and exploration if that whole climate panic political mess would be removed from NASA. And there is indeed a very dramatic cliff between the increase of CO2 abundance and temperature change. Everything which the political billionaire Al Gore claimed 15 or so years ago, with his hockey stick doomsday forecast, has adamantly been falsified. Doomsday is nowhere near. No need to use that as a false excuse for abolishing human rights and giving totalitarian powers to the political elite to use force to abolish all space flight, all industry, all energy production, all transportation, all agriculture. The imagined problem does not exist. The temperature is not increasing. The poles aren't melting. The ice bears don't die. The cities aren't drowned. instead the opposite is happening. The harvests are growing, the wild life is enjoying our CO2-emissions. There's no reason to listen to any climate panicist who doesn't start out with taking firm distance from the murderous human-hating crack pots who are so numerous in the climate panic camp. The environmentalist's ideal is to kill everyone. That's how they want to solve the "problem" that the temperature actually doesn't increase at all.

Douglass: 05/02/2015 08:49 CDT

The House Science Committee is touting the Planetary Society support for what the Planetary Society seems to call a "flawed bill". Something wrong with that, don't you think? Yep, the Planetary Society has basically sold out to those in Congress who are scared to face issues on our planet, which is fundamentally the most important one to us. It is an unwritten rule in the science community that you don't denigrate other kinds of science. Those other kinds of science can fight for their own support, but you don't get in their way. The Planetary Society, in their worship of planetary science, seems to have done exactly that to Earth science. Let's just hope, when the shoe is on the other foot, planetary science doesn't suffer because of this. If I were an Earth scientist, I'd have a pretty dim view of the Planetary Society. As a member of the Planetary Society, I have a pretty dim view of it myself.

Arbitrary: 05/02/2015 10:44 CDT

I don't understand why the Planetary Society digs itself down in these political conflicts about what should be done about climate changes. Does the PS has a policy for the Middle East too? Shouldn't you focus on "planetary science" instead?

Arbitrary: 05/02/2015 10:54 CDT

The argument the Planetary Society should make concerning climate change, is to argue for a programme of probes to Venus. And as support for exoplanet atmosphere hunters, also some mission to Uranus/Neptune because they are atmospheric super-Earths of the kind similar to the exoplanetary atmospheres which we will discover early on. P.S. should NOT suggest to the president that the best thing to do is to shut down industry and do less and less because of the superstition that everything humans create is a sin.

Peter: 05/03/2015 07:42 CDT

"Obviously, the cuts to Earth Science make this a hard bill to support, therefore The Planetary Society cannot support the full bill as written at this early stage." Since The Planetary Society doesn't support planetary science and space exploration anymore, I no longer want to be part of this organisation and will discourage people to join. Thank you.

ethanol: 05/03/2015 11:18 CDT

Mark says: "Earth is a planet. I was shocked by your letter endorsing a portion of the House markup while making no mention whatsoever about the severe cuts to Earth science. I would like for you to relate why you think your ringing endorsement of a disastrous markup is a good idea for this society, before I withdraw my membership and support of TPS." Peter says: "Since The Planetary Society doesn't support planetary science and space exploration anymore, I no longer want to be part of this organisation and will discourage people to join. Thank you." Just goes to show that you can't make everyone happy, and apparently, when you try to adopt a nuanced position on issues related to global warming and the environment, you can't make anyone happy. For my own part, I don't want Planetary science to be increased at the cost of earth science (whatever you think of NASA's proper mission, note that no other agency is positioned or funded to do this work. At the same time I recognize that after years of advocating on Capitol Hill for $1.5 B, TPS can't respond to this proposal just with criticism.

Arbitrary: 05/04/2015 01:08 CDT

@ethanol This only shows how bad an idea it is for Planetary Society to mix into subjects unrelated to planetary science. If you want Earth science, then please join the Earth Society! Way too little is done to explore the planets, for it to be diluted by whatever happens to be politically fanciful for the moment. Planetary science needs an advocate for planetary science, not yet another propaganda politician barking about doomsday coming soon, unless you give him all your money.

Casey Dreier: 05/06/2015 05:21 CDT

I thank everyone for their comments and feedback on this issue—it's been an interesting week. The question really comes down to priorities, and to what degree the Society should promote planetary exploration. It's no question that planetary is and will remain our top focus in terms of advocacy and activity. No one else works primarily on planetary exploration issues; there are many other organizations who focus on Earth Science and climate change. That being said, the Society has a expectation and a responsibility to support science at NASA and particularly Earth Science (Earth being a planet and all). It's a part of our history a strong belief within our membership. A single year cut of ~$300M is bad for a lot of reasons for any science. That large cut makes this bill untenable, despite the good stuff within it. We must find a way to preserve or expand the sciences at NASA, and not allow them to feel pitted against each other. The past few years of appropriations have done this well, increasing planetary science and astrophysics while maintaining Earth Science and heliophysics.

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