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Emily LakdawallaJune 14, 2011

URGENT: Call Appropriations Committee members to support Pu-238 production

I just got the following email from the American Geophysical Union (AGU), requesting anyone whose Congressperson sits on the Appropriations Committee to place a phone call to support the production of Plutonium-238, the isotope of plutonium that powers spacecraft that cannot run on solar power. We're basically out of the stuff, and no one is making more, which dims future prospects for the exploration of the outer planets and other distant stuff, as well as non-sunny places like shadowed regions on Mercury or the Moon or the surface of Venus. If you live or work in any of those Committee members' districts, please make the call. Even just a few phone calls can really make a difference.

Dear Emily Lakdawalla ,

The future of planetary sciences needs your help today. As you know, re-starting production of Plutonium-238 (Pu-238) is critical if planetary scientists, like you, are to explore space in regions where solar panels will not provide enough electrical power. The President's Fiscal Year 2012 (FY12) budget request asks for $10 million for NASA and $10 million for the Department of Energy (DOE) to restart production of Pu-238. However, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water, which oversees the DOE budget, has refused to allocate the money in their FY12 spending bill. But, there is still hope.

Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA-29th) will offer an amendment to the House Energy and Water spending bill tomorrow (15 June), when the full Appropriations Committee will have the chance to amend the subcommittee's spending bill. Congressman Schiff's amendment will propose the Energy and Water bill include the President's request for $10 million at DOE to restart production of Pu-238.

f you live in Congressman Schiff's district, please call his office at (202) 225-4176 and thank him for offering this amendment. If you do not live in Congressman Schiff's district, you are receiving this email because you live in a district represented by someone else who sits on the Appropriations Committee. Please call your Representative and ask them to support Congressman Schiff's amendment.
Making the Call:

Talking Points:

If You Are a Federal Employee:

Calling your Representative allowed. However, it is not permissible to discuss specific funding levels. Instead, discuss your research and its local impact on the district, implying that you would like their support on this issue.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Kaitlin Chell
Public Affairs Coordinator
American Geophysical Union
2000 Florida Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20009 USA

Read more: events and announcements, Planetary Society Political Advocacy, Plutonium-238

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Emily Lakdawalla

Solar System Specialist for The Planetary Society
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