The Planetary Society has presented to NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe a Declaration in Support of Space Exploration signed by over 15,000 people worldwide.
Begun in the wake of the Columbia tragedy, the Declaration states, "We, the undersigned members and friends of The Planetary Society, stand ready to help the United States recover from this tragedy. We offer our support to NASA in its continuing exploration. Our human and robotic explorers must continue the great adventure so boldly begun."
More than one quarter of the signatures came from outside the United States.
" In these days of international tension, we think it is heartening to know that NASA stands as an American symbol much appreciated and honored throughout the world," said Louis Friedman, Executive Director of The Planetary Society. "NASA's space program is not only a source of pride for our nation, but also for the global community."
Actors and other members of the Star Trek universe joined with Society members to support the Declaration, with signatories including Robert Picardo and Tim Russ of Star Trek Voyager, Nichelle Nichols and George Takei of the original series, Wil Wheaton of Star Trek: the Next Generation, and Eugene Roddenberry Jr, the son of Star Trek's creator.
"Although the recent tragedy envelops us all, to falter in our commitment to the future of human and robotic exploration of space is a disservice to the dedicated men and women who serve as architects of our future," said Picardo, a member of The Planetary Society's Advisory Council.
The SETI@home project, a search for extraterrestrial intelligence that utilizes the computing power of multiple personal computers, also encouraged their four million participants to sign the Declaration.
Later this month the Society will join with the Association of Space Explorers and the American Astronautical Society to help consider next steps in launch vehicle development beyond the shuttle to enable human exploration beyond Earth orbit.