The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives will empty on August 5 and won't return to session until after the Labor Day holiday on September 5. Members of congress and their staffs will leave for vacations and return to their constituencies to check on what's bubbling among the people who voted them into office.
Is this the time to forget about political action? No! It's time to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboards) and write to your local newspaper proclaiming your support for space exploration.
Consider this scene: Your congressional representative is sitting down to the breakfast table at home, sipping the first cup of morning coffee, and paging through the local newspaper. He (or she) scans down the Letters to the Editor column and a name jumps out -- his name. His attention is caught by a letter from a potential voter who passionately supports space exploration.
The letter calls on him -- by name -- to fight the cuts to NASA programs proposed by the House of Representatives. It says that you strongly oppose cutting the technology development that could lead to breakthroughs in space travel and science. Or, it gives your position on letting private companies build new rockets to take astronauts to orbit and making access to space more affordable. Or, it affirms your stand for or against canceling the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), the successor to the great Hubble telescope.
A letter in a local newspaper hits a politician where it counts -- in his own constituency, the place he finds the votes he needs to get re-elected. Even if your congressperson doesn't see your letter himself, someone on his staff will be combing through the local press to see what issues are gathering the most support.
- Keep it short, no more than two or three paragraphs at the most.
- Stay focused on one subject, like cutting NASA technology development or canceling JWST.
- Mention your local Representative or Senator by name.
- Include your contact information, so the newspaper can verify that you are a real person.
- Submit electronically, if possible, to make it easy for the editor to cut and paste your letter into their publication format.
If you are not a U.S. citizen, you can still contribute by writing to local publications or contributing to blogs. Every time people see other people supporting space exploration, it helps advance the campaign to keep our spacecraft flying.
To refresh your memory on the issues the Planetary Society is tackling, you can check out these blog posts
July 7, 2011 House subcommittee votes to slash NASA
July 12, 2011 The Skirmishing Has Begun
If you haven't yet, please sign the petition to restore our future in space.
If you need help finding the name of your congressional representatives, check here.
Let's get to work. Together, we can make a difference.