It's been a long, busy year here for advocacy at the Planetary Society.
In February we saw the release of President Obama's 2013 budget request that cut NASA's planetary science division by 21%. NASA pulled out of the ExoMars mission with the European Space Agency and has since struggled to find funding for any of the high-priority missions spelled out by the planetary science community in the Decadal survey. This is the most difficult funding environment for planetary exploration since the early 1980s.
The Society has been deeply involved in the struggle to restore funding for NASA's unique program. We've made multiple visits to Washington, D.C., met with key people in the legislative process, and worked closely with other organizations, like the AAS's Division for Planetary Science and the American Geophysical Union, to provide a consistent message to politicians.
We've also initiated multiple letter-writing campaigns to Congress, the White House, and the Office of Management and Budget. We depended on the tens of thousands of members and supporters to help us with these campaigns, and we have not been disappointed. Thank you to everyone who took the time to do this both here in the U.S. and abroad. We'll need you again.
Congress reacted well and restored some of the money in both the Senate and House versions of the budget. Unfortunately, they never reconciled these budgets and passed a Continuing Resolution funding the government at 2012 levels for six months. This will be a major item we'll follow and continue to need your help with during 2013.
We're not letting up. Neither should you.
Keep following this blog and look for email notices about major events in 2013. We depend on you to help get this message out there and to Save Our Science.
Here's where we stand:
First, a New Mars Rover!
On December 4th, NASA surprised just about everybody by announcing that it would build a new Mars rover to launch in 2020. NASA found a way to create a lower-cost mission that will hopefully be the first step in a Mars sample return campaign. This was an unambiguous success for us. The White House and NASA heeded calls for continued Mars exploration.
But we're not done. Despite this new rover mission, the threats to the planetary exploration budget are still the same. The program stands to lose $309 million next year.
Restoring Funding for 2013
Next year, we'll continue to push Congress to follow through with its promise to restore funding in 2013. They have yet to pass a budget for this year. But when they do, it's likely that we'll see at least a partial reversal of cuts to the planetary program. We will be following this closely.
No More Cuts in Future Budgets
The 2014 budget proposal will also be important. It won't be until February, when the budget is publicly released, that we learn if the White House has changed its mind about funding planetary exploration. If not, we will go back to Congress and tell them to restore funding in the 2014 budget as well.
A Stronger, Strategic Presence in Washington
We're going to be a stronger presence in Washington, D.C., next year. I'm planning multiple trips to meet with key people in Congress in order to push our message. Our CEO Bill Nye will make multiple visits as well, and we'll continue to engage our lobbyist as much as we can.
Our message is all the stronger when you keep engaged and write or call your Congressional representatives to tell them how important NASA's planetary program is to you. We'll let you know the best times to do this next year.
Once again, thank you to everyone who has helped get this message out, to those who have written and to those who have donated to our Advocacy efforts. We cannot do this alone.
Here's to a better 2013.