Jim Bell is a scientist and professor at Arizona State University and is the Payload Element Lead for the Pancam cameras on the twin MER rovers, Deputy Principal Investigator of the Mastcam camera on MSL Curiosity, as well as a participant in many other planetary science missions and publisher of many books on space exploration and Mars. He is also the President of the Planetary Society, and he asked me to post this open letter to his colleagues in the scientific community. --Casey Dreier, Director of Advocacy
Subject: Message to Professional Planetary Science Colleagues about Budget Advocacy
As the President of the Board of Directors of The Planetary Society (TPS), a fellow member of several professional societies engaged in planetary science research (AAS/DPS, AGU, and GSA), and a colleague deeply concerned about current and future funding for planetary science research and missions, I wanted to send a brief note to all of you to highlight some important recent developments. TPS, along with leaders of the relevant sections of the DPS, AGU, and GSA, and many of you, have been working hard over the past few years to jointly advocate for NASA budget levels that will enable our community to meet the objectives of the Planetary Science Decadal Survey. Together, we have all had some influence in the process, as evidenced by Congressional increases in recent actual enacted Planetary Science Division budgets over the levels proposed by the Administration, and actions like the intention to release the AO for the 13th Discovery mission this fiscal year. However, we are not yet where we need to be to achieve the Decadal goals, and so your continued action and support is needed as the FY15 budget is being formulated right now.
Specifically, we are asking all members of TPS, DPS, AGU, and GSA to write, call, and/or visit their Congressional representatives over the next few weeks to months to impress upon them the importance of planetary science to your district and state, and to our nation. Writing is easy—just use TPS's helpful web form to write Congress. By entering your zip code the site will automatically send your message (you can use our template, or change it to say whatever you like) to your Congressional Representative and your two Senators. You can also find more information at their "Be a Space Advocate" section about how to call and visit your representatives most effectively, as well as links to facts and budget analyses that help to justify TPS's call for a stable $1.5 billion funding level for NASA's Planetary Science Division.
Finally, while you don't need to be a member of The Planetary Society to use these resources, I'd like to ask you all to consider joining TPS to become even more fully engaged in this effort. Professional planetary scientists have played important roles in the history of the Society's advocacy, education, and outreach work (including two of our founders, Carl Sagan and Bruce Murray), helping the more than half a million people who have been members since 1980 become directly connected to our field and to have a well-reasoned voice in the future direction of NASA.
Especially for government employees, but also for others, Society membership and involvement provides effective ways for individual citizens to exercise their constitutional right to petition their government without having to violate any of their job restrictions. Part of each member's $37/year dues goes towards supporting the staff and projects that the Society deploys in support of your science, so I hope that you will consider joining in.
Thanks in advance for your help at this critical time in the FY15 budget cycle!
Sincerely, Jim Bell President, The Planetary Society