Casey DreierJan 19, 2018

Space Policy & Advocacy Program Quarterly Report - January 2018

As a service to our members and in a spirit of transparency, The Planetary Society's Space Policy & Advocacy team publishes quarterly reports on their activities, actions, and priorities in service of their efforts to promote space science and exploration in Washington, D.C.

Key Actions & Achievements

  • Hosted a reception in the Library of Congress highlighting the future of outer planets exploration after Cassini
  • Submitted the nomination of TPS President Jim Bell to the National Space Council's User Advisory Group
  • Joined the AAAS and 70 other scientific societies in a joint letter arguing against a proposed tax increase on graduate students
  • Generated 15,000 emails to Congress in support of NASA and planetary science budget increases, and followed these up with targeted office visits
  • Provided congressional guidance and supporting analysis of the NEO missions DART and NEOCam

Policy Priorities

  • Promote Society priorities (planetary exploration, planetary defense) during the final FY 2018 budget process in Congress
  • Ensure Humans to Mars stays a top priority for NASA
  • Prevent the enactment of a tax increase on STEM graduate students
  • Promote NEO investment by the government
  • Generate registrations for the 2018 SEA Congressional Blitz



Emails sent to Congress


In-person office meetings


Average space policy podcast listenership


Space Advocate Newsletter audience

Activity Highlights

We leveraged the end of the Cassini mission to raise awareness about the future opportunities for planetary exploration in the outer planets, and also built relationships with a number of scientific and industry partners. This event utilized a space at the Library of Congress, and drew approximately 150 high-ranking congressional staff and four members of Congress. Former NASA Chief Scientist Ellen Stofan was the featured speaker, and we had eight exhibitors present to share their roles in upcoming missions, from James Webb to New Horizons to Juno to Europa Clipper.

In coordination with the Communications team, we organized a letter writing campaign to support proposed increases both the Planetary Science Division and NASA overall. In addition to our normal emails promoting the petition, we created a number of short videos and visuals to encourage Facebook members in high-priority states to utilize the petition. This Facebook content was highly engaging, ranking at #6 out of the 731 posts made by The Planetary Society in 2017 in terms of audience interaction.

In Q1 of FY 2018, 4,983 individuals wrote a total of 15,198 messages as a consequence of this campaign, of which 2,691 were new individuals to the Society. This fell below our overall goal, though we exceeded our goal of generating new individuals.

The team continued to provide regular columns to The Planetary Report, and wrote five original blog posts on space policy issues. In total, this content generated 20,353 unique page views this quarter.

The Space Policy Edition (SPE) podcast maintained its audience, with an average listenership of 19,133 per episode for the three episodes posted during this period. Topic highlights during this period were:

As predicted, the audience for the podcast rebounded compared to last quarter, which suffered from technical issues related to posting new episodes.

The monthly Space Advocate e-Newsletter audience grew by 3,346 to 27,608 recipients by the end of the first quarter. This growth was entirely organic, as there was no effort either to promote the newsletter or increase awareness on behalf of the organization.

Looking ahead to Q2 (January 1st - March 31st)

The event of most consequence in the coming quarter is the release of the FY 2019 President's Budget Request. We are hopeful that the PBR will include requests for additional funding for NASA for its strategic focus on the Moon, and not an internal shift away from unrelated programs. Little is publicly known at this stage, however, and we will monitor this closely

The Space Advocate Training Toolkit is in the initial implementation stage, and is on track for a beta release by early Spring.

Our research efforts will be focusing on the Near Earth-Object observing and planetary defense programs, and we anticipate releasing a white paper on the broad topic issues in Q2.

The full Space Policy & Advocacy team will be in D.C. to support Society members participating in the Space Exploration Alliance Congressional Blitz in February. We helped generate a record number of participants this year, and we are planning a number of related member gatherings and opportunities add value to their overall experience.

We are helping to organize a panel of scientists to discuss the potential of sample return for planetary missions at a congressional briefing set for February 27th.

In addition, we are tracking the following issues:

  • There is still no agreement on a FY 2018 budget, and NASA continues to operate on a continuing resolution. Previous issues regarding the disparity of funding between the Senate and House bills with regards to Planetary Science Division persist.
  • A NASA Administrator, Jim Bridenstine, will likely be confirmed in the near future. The Society will continue to engage with his staff and the new Administrator both publicly and privately to promote our priorities and develop an ongoing, productive relationship.
  • NASA has proposed a "lean sample return" concept for its robotic Mars program. While sample return is the highest priority goal of the decadal survey, NASA's proposal runs counter to our efforts to promote a Mars Orbiter, and does not address the long-term stability of the program after MSR is achieved. We are working to understand the implications for the scientific community and to further clarify NASA's plans for MSR in order to better advocate for this issue.

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