This was an extraordinarily productive and successful quarter for the program. Thanks to the full engagement of our team and the strategic leveraging of key staff of The Planetary Society (TPS), board members, and new partnerships, we reached new heights in planetary science funding, congressional outreach, and TPS presence on Capitol Hill.
Key Actions & Achievements
- Helped to formally establish the Planetary Science Congressional Caucus, grow its membership, and add additional partnering organizations
- Supported the FY18 budget that contained top TPS priorities: $2.2 billion for NASA's Planetary Science Division, $35M in funding for NEOCam, and $75M in funding for the Mars Exploration Program in line with recommendations with our Mars in Retrograde paper
- Partnered with the Kluge Center at the Library of Congress to present a members-only breakfast and special presentation on NEOs with Bill Nye and Amy Mainzer
- Completed the Space Advocacy 101 online training course
- Bill Nye attended the SOTU as guest of then-nominee for NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine
- Organized a congressional briefing on sample return with 4 scientists and Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-WA-06)
- Co-organized a D.C. congressional blitz with 58 Society members from 21 states
- Hosted the West Coast Delegation of the Australia-America Leadership Dialogue at TPS HQ with Bill Nye and staff to build engagement with a key international partner
- Arranged 52 in-person congressional meetings, surpassing our goal of 30
- Accepted a new summer policy intern in Washington, D.C.
- Support activities of the Planetary Science Congressional Caucus
- Promote Society priorities (planetary exploration, search for life, planetary defense) during the final FY 2018 budget process in Congress and at the start of FY 19 process
- Ensure funding to continue NEOCam project through FY 2018
- Develop international partnerships in preparation for IAC
Emails sent to Congress
In-person congressional meetings
R-D partisan breakdown of meetings
Average space policy podcast listenership
Space Advocate Newsletter audience
Planetary Science Division Funding Hits Record Heights
With the conclusion of the FY 2018 appropriations process, TPS saw the majority of its goals reflected in the final funding bill for NASA. The Planetary Science Division smashed through previous funding records, reaching $2.2 billion. The budget included two of The Planetary Society's top priorities: an additional $75 million directed toward Mars Sample Return and future orbiter planning (as we recommended in 2017's Mars in Retrograde paper), and $35 million for NEOCam, an asteroid-hunting space telescope. Also a high priority, the Europa project received a boost to a stunning $595 million for both a lander and the Clipper spacecraft. No other organizations had focused on the Mars Exploration, Planetary Defense, or Europa, sowe consider this to be a clear example of the effectiveness of our empowered Space Policy & Advocacy program. The Planetary Society's D.C. staff had worked hard in the past few to ensure that critical programs like Mars exploration and planetary defense were not overlooked. This work paid off.
Congressional Planetary Science Caucus is Established
The paperwork was submitted in January, formally establishing the caucus. The team worked with marketing and communications to announce the news to our membership via a multi-channel marketing strategy, including an exclusive interview on Planetary Radio, an op-ed published in The Planetary Report, an all-member email, and assistance in a formal press release. The team in D.C. worked with Bill Nye on Capitol Hill to make personal requests to join the caucus, and also provided material for TPS members to distribute during our congressional blitz in February. The current size of the caucus is five senators, twenty-two representatives, and four supporting organizations, surpassing the goal of 20 members by the end of May.
New Online Training Course—Space Advocacy 101—Readied for Launch
We finalized the production of our first online training course—Space Advocacy 101—which usesa new online teaching platform to provide an accessible, valuable, and unique offering to our members and the general public. We tested out an early version of the course on the participants of the February congressional blitz, which helped to validate its utility and scope, and to refine the final version. All 2017 donors to the Space Policy & Advocacy program were given early access to the course, fulfilling last year's fundraising campaign promise. The course will be opened to full membership in April.
We Partnered with the Library of Congress for a Conversation on near-Earth Objects with Bill Nye and Dr. Amy Mainzer
The Planetary Society partnered with the Library of Congress's Kluge Center for a members-only, off-the-record breakfast discussion on near-Earth objects with Bill Nye and Dr. Amy Mainzer from JPL. This represented an expanded Space Policy & Advocacy focus on planetary defense policy in addition to planetary exploration. More than a dozen members of Congress attended. Bill and Amy's conversation was followed by a moderated discussion before members and more than 400 congressional staff in their auditorium. The D.C. staff scheduled a dozen in-person office meetings later that day, including with high-profile officials such as Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ).
Bill Nye Attended the State of the Union (SOTU)
NASA Administrator nominee Jim Bridenstine invited Bill to attend the SOTU as his guest. Major news stories picked up Bill's participation, causing concern among some of our members. We worked hard to engage with our membership and share our belief that The Planetary Society must work with everyone to advance space science and exploration. We used the trip to arrange an additional 18 in-person congressional meetings on Capitol Hill with members of both parties to build support for the Planetary Science Caucus and to discuss space science and exploration.
Australian-American Leadership Dialogue - West Coast Delegation Visited Planetary Society Headquarters
The Australian-American Leadership Dialogue is a nonprofit founded in 1992 with the support of then-President George H.W. Bush, and brings together a wide range of individuals from both countries to find new ways to cooperate and promote ideas. The West Coast Delegation was on its annual visit to the U.S. coast, and came to TPS headquarters on a trip that also included visits to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and SpaceX. We hosted the delegation for lunch and held a discussion with Bill Nye and Policy Director Casey Dreier. Other top-level management provided tours and additional discussion opportunities.
New Record for Member Participation in the Annual Congressional Blitz
The policy team played an integral part in supporting the Space Exploration Alliance in its annual congressional visits day (or "congressional blitz"), in which The Planetary Society brought 58 members from 21 states and the District of Columbia—roughly 80% of all participants. The entire policy team worked to support the event, and organized multiple in-person membership engagement opportunities, a special congressional briefing on sample return, and early access to the Space Advocacy 101 online training course. In the post-event survey, 95% of respondents stated they have a "Very Positive" or "Positive" experience, with 75% committing to return in a future congressional blitz.
The team continued to provide regular columns to The Planetary Report, and wrote eight original blog posts on space policy issues, generating 52,325 unique page views this quarter.
The Space Policy Edition (SPE) podcast audience dipped by 10%, likely due to a the transition to Panoply, which tracks listenership differently than the previous host, SoundCloud. The audience remains in- line with that for regular episodes of Planetary Radio.
The monthly Space Advocate e-Newsletter audience grew by 5,542 to 33,150 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.
We also generated approximately 1,400 messages to Congress in support of the new Planetary Science Caucus. This is lower than normal, but reflected the fact that we did not prioritize letter-writing during this period.