May 25 marks the 45th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy's 1961 speech to Congress launching the Apollo Program. Almost half a century later, The Planetary Society will remind Congress today of the vision needed to undertake such space ventures by hosting a special presentation in Washington DC that features filmmaker James Cameron, Bill Nye the Science Guy, planetary scientist Heidi B. Hammel, and Society Executive Director Louis Friedman.
In contrast to Kennedy's vision, the fiscal year 2007 budget proposed for NASA contains cuts that threaten to end the era of exploration that brought us the Hubble Space Telescope, Mars Exploration Rovers, Cassini-Huygens at Saturn, Deep Impact and Stardust. The Administration proposes to drastically cut future space science, especially astrobiology research; to stop work on new missions to Europa and to find terrestrial planets; and to not include Mars planning in the Vision for Space Exploration.
Presented in cooperation with the House Science Committee, "Exploring a New World" is another step in The Planetary Society's ongoing campaign to Save Our Science (SOS).
"We stand at a crossroads with planetary exploration," said Friedman. "The next NASA budget will determine whether we continue an exploration program that has yielded stunning results and promises even greater adventures in the future, or we turn our backs on the universe that awaits us."
Over the past few weeks, thousands of concerned members of the public have written their congressional representatives and signed The Planetary Society's petition in a worldwide SOS on behalf of planetary exploration. The Society will present those signatures to Congress today, but will continue to urge the public to contact the Appropriations Committee in the weeks leading up to the NASA budget mark-up in June.
As it now stands, the budget submitted by the Bush Administration for NASA would slash $3 billion from the planned exploration of the solar system, as well as from space science research and analysis.
In addition, the budget cuts astrobiology, the study of and search for life beyond Earth, by a full 50%. University research funding would be cut 15% across the board, eliminating many bright young people from the field of space science.
Today's presentation will highlight the exploration possible with a properly funded planetary science program, focusing on the wonders that may await us at Jupiter's moon Europa, which has a vast subsurface ocean. Cameron will share a segment from his IMAX film, "Aliens of the Deep," which includes an animated sequence that speculates about future exploration of that icy Jovian moon. Hammel will explain why scientists are anxious to explore this intriguing world, and Nye will discuss the importance to our society of continued exploration, especially to attracting young people into science and engineering.
Media are invited to this invitation-only event, which will take place in the Rayburn House Office Building, room 2318, at 4:00 PM.
The Society escalated its SOS campaign today by launching a new advertising campaign, "Don't Trash Space Science." The provocative ad campaign, endorsed by members of the space community, scientists, visionaries, and celebrities, debuted in Washington area newspapers and on the internet. View the ad.