Planetary Radio Host and Producer, The Planetary Society
The coronavirus pandemic reminds us that everything we do in space depends on what we do here on Earth. The impacts on space exploration are being felt already, with more challenges yet to come. The policy team at The Planetary Society, including CEO Bill Nye, recently provided a members-only live briefing to share our analysis of the impacts and to take questions about our work and the future. We share excerpts from that briefing with you on this month's episode.
Couldn't join us for the live Planetary Society member webcast? Here's the complete March 2020 briefing, featuring Planetary Society CEO Bill Nye, Chief Advocate and Senior Space Policy Advisor Casey Dreier, Chief of Washington Operations Brendan Curry, and Planetary Radio host Mat Kaplan.
Mat Kaplan: [00:00:00] Welcome, everyone. This is Planetary Radio: Space Policy Edition, for April of 2020. I'm Mat Kaplan, the host of Planetary Radio, joined by the Chief Advocate for the the Planetary Society, and our Senior Space Policy Advisor, Casey Dreier. Casey, welcome.
Casey Dreier: Hey Mat, how are you doing? Are you staying healthy?
Mat Kaplan: [laughs], I'm doing my best. So far, uh, mine and those around me are doing pretty well. Uh, but, uh, you know, uh, we are told, sorry to say, the worst is yet to come. How about on your end, up there in Washington?
Casey Dreier: My wife and I are doing just fine, working from home, as you probably figured, as, so, now, the headquarters of Planetary Society, Northwest Preston the service has a recording studio, here in the e-exotic [00:01:00] confines of my bedroom closet, [laughing]. So...
Mat Kaplan: Welcome to podcasting from home, [laughs].
Casey Dreier: There you go. Yeah, I'm sure a lot of people are probably hearing a lot of, uh, background noise in their podcasts over the next few weeks.
Mat Kaplan: Yeah. At least you don't have a dog barking the way I did with, uh, Bruce, uh, during, uh, the WhatsApp segment from last week, [laughs]. But we, we, we rolled that into the action, it made it kind of fun. It's, uh, it's appropriate, Casey, during these very strange and somewhat terrible times. Obviously, we hope that all of you are also happy, healthy, and feeling whatever sense of wellbeing you can during these very tough times.
And we thank you. We thank you for joining us for this program, but, uh, we, uh, especially thank our members, uh, because, um, as you might guess, it's gonna be a tough time all around. I mean, we are hearing, uh, sober people start to talk about financial times. I heard that maybe as difficult as anything faced since the great depression, uh, to say nothing of the health challenges we all face. And [00:02:00] so, uh, it's gonna be a tough time for nonprofits, too.
So far, don't worry about us, not yet anyway. The Planetary Society is in good shape. We have a good management, good fiscal management and, uh, we're hoping to roll through this and help all of you out there do the same. We are, of course, as always grateful to our members and our donors. And, uh, now more than ever, wouldn't you say, Casey?
Casey Dreier: Absolutely. If there's a time where events, external events make me just so grateful for the support that we have from our members at the Planetary Society, uh, I can't think of a better situation, or a more salient situation than, than we're in right now. So, I just wanna, just honestly, a heartfelt thank you for your support, for your ongoing support.
Uh, as Mat said, we're nonprofits and everything is going to take work f-, over the next few years to kind of deal with the crisis we're going through. And, again, I just feel so inspired from the support we've had from our members, and also everyone here at the society [00:03:00] sees our... You know, just our role, and just engaging with you. And talking about not the immediate problems that we face, but what we get to solve in the future.
I mean, that's, in a sense, we see how that's a luxury, but also how important it is to keep our eyes down field and say, "What w-, amazing and exciting things are yet to come, that we can choose to do in the next 10, 20, 30 years. That are enriching, and exciting, and just inspirational." And it's a real joy to be able to talk about that with you right now.
Mat Kaplan: You know, you reminded me of a little text conversation I had with a, a very good old friend of mine, who happens to be, uh, the local host for all NPRs, all things considered, up, up in Los Angeles. And he mentioned how troubling it is. And it had not occurred to me, we all are troubled when we hear this news, but for all those folks out there, like my friend, who have to write [00:04:00] about it and share it with others, our hearts go out to you, as they do to healthcare professionals.
Uh, and I'll go even a little bit further. Um, y-you probably know of, uh, nonprofits in your area, ones that you love, small ones even, uh, we got something from a theater company down here in the San Diego area, that we love. And they put it bluntly, they're gonna go out of business if they don't get support from folks, because, of course, their stages are dark. Um, so, think about them, and we'll be here when you get back. Planetary Society is gonna be around.
Of course, if you are in a position to, uh, support our work, which is now more important than ever, uh, with these challenges that are coming up, especially the work that Casey and Brandon Curry do, w-, you can find out more at planetary.org/membership. But, uh, we know a lot of you are facing, uh, unprecedented financial challenges. And, uh, so we wish you all the best.
And from that, Casey, let's talk about the news. Um, [laughs], it's... it does get a whole lot better, at least not for a few [00:05:00] minutes here on the show, because as we speak, it was just this morning, I believe, that the new employment figures came out for the United States, they are not good. Uh, and I'm just wondering how you think that may roll over into, uh, the space, uh, the space business.
We addressed this, somewhat, also, in last Saturday, March 28th's policy and politics briefing, which you're gonna hear some excellent excerpts of in just a few minutes here on the show. So, uh, we hope you'll stay tuned for that. But, uh, any new developments, even in the... What? Five days since we did that program with, uh, Bill Nye?
Casey Dreier: Well, Mat, as you said, the unemployment figures, I think that came out today, six million new unemployment registrations here in the United States, in addition to the three million the week before. Unprecedented doesn't do that justice. Obviously, there's going to be long-term economic repercussions that are going to reverberate through the space industry, like it will through f-, pretty much every other industry, uh, in the United States, and, [00:06:00] and around the world. So, we talk about this in the, in the briefing, somewhat.
And my overall thou-... The-there's two tracks that I think about here, in terms of the immediate consequences are, you starting to see already through a lot of companies in the space industry. First is the c-, uh, is the consequence of the drying up of, of private investment. So, as these overall stock markets have gone down, a lot of wealth has evaporated. The overall economic situation is, drives people to generally be more conservative in their investments. They have a lower inclination to pursue high risk, long-term reward investments like space. So, you're seeing companies like OneWeb, which was attempting to launch a global-
Mat Kaplan: Mm-hmm [affirmative].
Casey Dreier: ... uh, coverage of, of new, you know, small satellite, uh, communication systems around the world declared bankruptcy last week, citing coronavirus and, and the lack of additional venture capital as a reason for doing so. Bigelow Aerospace that creates the inflatable modules in space has f-, [00:07:00] laid off its entire workforce, uh, also citing the same economic conditions.
Mat Kaplan: Hmm.
Casey Dreier: And I predict you'll see a number of particularly smaller companies that are in the early stages of venture capital, uh, really struggling to continue to meet payroll in the situation. So, I think that's the first consequence you'll see from this economic, uh, calamity, I guess, that we're seeing. The second is going to be a longer-term issue, and it really will hit public financing. Right now, uh, I'll use the United States as an example, but you're seeing this happen around the world.
You're seeing massive stimulus and relief packages being passed. So, here, in the United States, we passed the $2.2 trillion economic relief bill for businesses and individuals. Combine that amount of spending with the decrease in economic output and you're going to see massive deficits hitting the United States, and other countries. The consequence of this, after the crisis has passed, is likely a severe restriction, or at least [00:08:00] political battle attempting to restrict what's called discretionary spending.
Spending that Congress here gets to choose how much to spend every year, right? So, you're gonna have massive deficits. You wanna try to make that look better. You... The United States will probably try to spend less. NASA is part of that discretionary budget. Most space agencies are part of that discretionary budget in, in various ways. That's going to make it a difficult fiscal situation to n-not grow NASA, but even maintain it, I would predict. So the, the overall fiscal environment, both for private companies and public investment in space is going to be pretty challenging in the next few years here.
Mat Kaplan: Well, Casey, that paints a, a sad but probably very accurate prediction. Of course, we can hope that things recover far more quickly than we thought. But whe-, you know, when you s-... when you're putting $2.2 trillion into relief measures, um, without debating the necessity of that, because I prefer one [00:09:00] thing that there was essential, that money is coming from someplace. Let's hope that, um, not all of it will be coming from NASA. I wouldn't, [laughing]... NASA would be a drop in the bucket to cover that, uh, that new level of deficit.
Casey Dreier: Yeah. Well, I think it's more of like th-... imagine the, you know, the pie that NASA competes for, for its slice-
Mat Kaplan: Mm-hmm [affirmative].
Casey Dreier: ... of the federal budget, it's likely that the pie itself is gonna get smaller. So, every agency within that, you know, competing for that amount of money is gonna have to compete with each other, to some degree. Uh, but again, I wanna emphasize, this probably won't happen until at least a year from now after this crisis period has passed.
Eh, again, you're seeing a, really, a two track. I think you're really seeing impact on commercial sector right now, particularly in the pure commercial sector that has no government support or investment, and public private partnership aspect. And then, longer term, the public sector are going to be facing a, a cash crunch.
Mat Kaplan: Since we're talking about budgets and money, uh, we teased this as well, during the, uh, March 28, uh, [00:10:00] policy and politics briefing that we, uh, did for, uh, uh, [laughs], an unprecedentedly large live audience, at least for the Planetary Society. Yeah, we mentioned that you are doing some amazing work analyzing the budget for NASA, [laughs], right, right from the start of NASA here in the United States.
I have gotten a preview of it, that you've provided, you have done some amazing work here. And as I said to you a few minutes ago, I think you're gonna have a lot of academics in your debt. Uh, tell us, uh, what people could expect here, and they may be able to see it about the time that this program becomes available.
Casey Dreier: Yeah. And just be clear, it's for planetary science within NASA. It's starting with our core focus area, uh, the history of planetary science spending. This serves two purposes. O-one, it, it... I want it to be a reference data set for how much every mission cost, when the money was spent and, uh, that you can see general trends of what was important in the history of planetary exploration at NASA since the, uh, late [00:11:00] '50s, early '60s.
But also, I think it's a great time. Again, we're all s-, kind of stuck at home right now. We may have more time on our hands. Uh, we're traveling less, right? And so, this is a great opportunity, [laughs]. If you're a numbers person like I am, there's a great time to just dive deep into the entire fiscal history of planetary exploration at NASA.
So, this was fun for me to put together. I've been working on this for a few months. I really wanted to get this out as soon as possible, to give everybody listening to it, not just academics, a chance to really dive in and say, to answer your questions about when the money flowed where. As a policy person, money really ultimately demonstrates priorities.
Mat Kaplan: Sure.
Casey Dreier: Right? Like you, if you... You can say you have priorities, [laughs], but if you can track where the money goes, ultimately, that's the statement of priority in any type of organization. And so, this, uh, [00:12:00] dataset, it's gonna be live by the time you listen to this.
You can go find it at planetary.org/space advocate. I'll have a link there. It's a, a raw data dump. I'll have additional interpretations plots coming out in the following weeks. But it, it really will take you through every single planetary mission from NASA ever. Going back to the Ranger, Lunar Orbiters in the '60s, all the way up to Psyche and Lucy now.
Every mission, how much was spent on it every single fiscal year since 1960, through the proposed 2021 budgets. And then you have a lot of fun statistics you can do with that data. What money was spent on Mars when. When was the big peaks of planetary science funding, and what were they spent on? Something that I had a lot of fun with was seeing just the huge scale of the Viking Program.
Mat Kaplan: Hmm.
Casey Dreier: Planetary science peaked in 1974, at nearly $3 billion adjusted for inflation using the best methods we [00:13:00] have. $2 billion of that $3 billion was spent on Viking.
Mat Kaplan: [laughs].
Casey Dreier: So, that was not a balanced program, right? So, we see these huge peaks in the past, but they were for very different situations. And we find ourselves now, with a ba-balance around $2.7 billion. So, again, this is a rich data set. I could easily go on, Mat, about this for probably an hour, [laughing]-
Mat Kaplan: No doubt.
Casey Dreier: But, it's-
Mat Kaplan: But it's there, people can explore it. There are revelations-
Casey Dreier: Exactly.
Mat Kaplan: ... galore. Uh, that hump that we saw, that you, that you documented for Viking, uh, during the mid 1970s, it's plotted in one, uh, graph that you showed us against the spending for other planets, other targets-
Casey Dreier: Yeah.
Mat Kaplan: ... around the solar system. And, you know, what prompted me to add my comment, the Martians wins, [laughs], because, well, it looked like the pretty clear winner, overall, of this decade.
Casey Dreier: Right. Yeah. That's another fun thing. You could even... I've, I've plotted out spending by destination. And you can see that changes over time. And you see these big peaks in the... First in the moon, right? During the Apollo years. Then Mars-
Mat Kaplan: Mm-hmm [affirmative].
Casey Dreier: ... is the big one.
Mat Kaplan: Uh-huh [affirmative].
Casey Dreier: And then you see, uh, [00:14:00] bumps in outer planets, as that became the primary focus of the program, over time. And then you see Mars clawing its way back, starting in the 1980s.
Mat Kaplan: [laughs].
Casey Dreier: Actually, late '80s. Uh, late '80s, with Observer, and then into the '90s. It's just a fun thing to, to dig through. I'm actually gonna extend an invitation out. Well, what I really would love to have from folks listening to this, who are into this kind of stuff, is that I'm looking for gaps to fill in. So, I consider this a version one, and I am eager to hear from additional people if they have insights. And, you know, particularly something I've wanted to really include in this was the cost of operations for missions.
And operations are, are frequently neglected when you're talking about the cost of emission. Most formal cost analysis who reported cost of emission from NASA only account for what's called the prime mission, right? Usually, a couple of years. And then they ignore the ongoing costs of the operational, you know, just to keep the mission's going. To pay the science and engineering teams to return the data. And that's usually your best return on [00:15:00] investment.
And so, I did what I could with public data to reconstruct, you know, for example, the annual cost of operating Voyager since 1978, [laughs]. And there's gaps in that, just from the public data that I can find. I'll identify parts of these on, on our website, but if you have insights into operating costs of pioneer Voyager, Mariner Missions, I am all ears and I'd love to include those in this dataset. So, again, I really consider this a version one and I hope to engage our membership and listenership to fill in and make it even better.
Mat Kaplan: It's move over citizen science, citizen economics, [laughs]. That's-
Casey Dreier: Yeah, it's citizen's budget.
Mat Kaplan: Yeah.
Casey Dreier: Yeah, budget sleuthing. It's like citizen budget.
Mat Kaplan: Yes, citizen budget res-research, yeah. I love it. All right, it's, it's waiting for you there at planetary.org/spaceadvocate. And, uh, you can start digging in through the data. Casey, let's go on to this, uh, recap of this briefing that took place on the morning of, [00:16:00] uh, Saturday, March 28th. Morning for us. It was afternoon from Brandon Curry, our, uh, Chief of Washington Operations, who was also a participant in this. And for the CEO of, uh, Planetary Society, Bill Nye.
It was the four of us who got together and talked for, uh, about an hour and a half. Uh, reviewing, as we have done twice a year for some time now, for donors, of supporters of the, uh, space policy advocacy program at the Planetary Society. But we did something different this time. We opened it up to all of our members, and I think we saw about, very nearly anyway, uh, an order of magnitude, uh, increase in our audience.
Casey Dreier: Yeah. Funny how that works, [laughs]. No, it was great. And it was a, a lot of fun to do. I guess we don't need to tease it so much, but what you'll hear is that it's a, eh, a briefing on the current situation of space policy that includes the coronavirus situation we, we alluded to earlier. Some of our core focus as an enterprise are mentioned in how we're going to be moving forward with those in the next six to 12 months.
[00:17:00] So, you'll see and hear, I should say, Nye give that briefing. And then we take a lot of questions from our members who participated in the call, and that was a lot of fun as well. And you'll hear a lot of irrelevant issues addressed in that as well. I don't really have anything more. I think we should just go right into the, to the briefing.
Mat Kaplan: Casey does use some slides, you'll hear him make a PowerPoint presentation. And, uh, we want you to be prepared. So, if you want, you could pause this now, don't forget to come back and finish the podcast, [laughs]. Casey, eh, you're gonna post those slides where people can find them if they wanna see them as if... they hear about them?
Casey Dreier: Yeah, the slides will be online in the show notes. I-it works well, I, I listen to it myself, it works pretty well without the slides as a reference. But if you want those with some additional data and, and, and pictures, of course, uh, those will be linked too off the show notes, uh, for this episode on planetary.org.
Mat Kaplan: Yeah. And more specific planetary.org/radio. And then just look for this episode of, uh, space policy edition, if you are coming at us from someplace else, [00:18:00] and, uh, you'll find a link. Just scroll down a little bit, you'll find a link to, uh, all of Casey's slides. All right, so, with that, let's, uh, let us take you back not too many days to Saturday, March 28th, and the semi-annual, we called it the Equinox, uh, space policy and politics briefing from the Planetary Society.
Casey, you've been talking about this next 10 years of space exploration possibly being the best ever. But now we have this new challenge that we're all dealing with. And Bill, I, I don't know if you might wanna say a few words to address that challenge, uh, and, and how we're gonna continue to, uh, represent the wishes of our members and, and, uh, make sure space exploration continues.
Bill Nye: Thank you, Mat. Thank you everyone. It just w-, the planetary side is the world's largest independent space organization. And among the things we do is advocate, especially in the United States, especially with NASA. [00:19:00] Not, not only in the US, but especially here. And what we wanna do is remind everybody that this pandemic will settle out eventually and space exploration continues.
If you wanna send a mission to Europa, it's gonna get there in 2034, you gotta be working on it now. And if you, uh, wanna get the Mars 2020 Rover now, called Perseverance, the Perseverance Rover to Mars, you can't let go of, of it right now. Otherwise, you gotta wait another 26 months, and you gotta keep this standing army of technicians and scientists, engineers ready to go for two years plus. It's just, uh, we gotta make sure everybody keeps focused, uh, in an inappropriate level on space.
And in order to do that, we engage people like you. People like you who are willing to take the time to communicate with our congressional, especially representatives so we can [00:20:00] keep things on track, despite all the, the stressful and surprisingly weird time that we're going through. So, I wanna just thank everybody again for taking the time on a Saturday to participate in this. And listening to me, of course, is fascinating, don't get me wrong, but we have people here who really know what they're talking about.
And then we... The great thing, or the thing that I'm really looking forward to this morning for me, uh, this afternoon for many of you is your questions. I'm very much looking forward to hear-hearing what you wonder about, and what Casey and Brendan can, uh, describe. Because, as the old saying goes, Washington is a small town based on trust and relationships, and unless they trust the Planetary Society, unless they trust people who have an interest in space exploration, things are not gonna get done.
But so far, through the diligence [00:21:00] and integrity of, of Brendan and Casey, we have been able to be quite influential. The NASA budget, we're gonna talk about this in great detail for planetary exploration is up to $2.7 billion. And I think we take full credit for that, don't we?
Mat Kaplan: [laughs].
Bill Nye: No, no, we... No, we had, [laughs], we had a very large and important role. So, uh, thank you all, again, for your support.
Casey Dreier: Bill, just to build upon what you were saying, I'm struck, more than ever right now, about the idea that the Planetary Society exists because of our members. And right now, when everybody is going through something that's a little anxiety inducing, or stressful and, and just disruptive, I appreciate our membership more than ever. And it just reminds me, even at a deeper level, that everything we do out in space ultimately depends on what we do here on earth. And our success in space depends on the success, the flourishing and the health of the people [00:22:00] here on this planet working so hard to make that all happen.
And so, if nothing else, this tells us about the role that we as individuals play together. And how important it is that we are healthy, that we are happy, that we are capable to focus on these big, exciting, optimistic long-term goals in space. So, if nothing else, I just wanna say I hope everyone listening in is healthy, they're doing okay through these weird times. And we're gonna talk a lot about kind of the ideas of what happens after this. But we, at the same time, at the society, we wanna emphasize that we are taking this seriously too, and that our thoughts are with you through this time as well.
Mat Kaplan: Brendan? Any words, dad, as we open this?
Brendan Curry: Uh, no. I'm in c-, total concurrence with, uh, Bill and Casey. And, um, th-the only thing I would add is that, uh, sometimes, uh, here in Washington, right now, things, uh, change by the hour. And so, some of the things that, uh, I, I may talk about may be overcome [00:23:00] by events, uh, after this call, but that shows, again, why we should do this again.
Casey Dreier: That's gonna be the default for all of our statements coming at this, [laughs].... Pending unexpected changes in the next 24 hours.
Mat Kaplan: Casey, before you go into your, uh, slides, uh, maybe we have time to take one or two questions. And we'll start with those that were submitted ahead of the start of this event. There are a lot of people who are talking about the COVID-19, uh, challenge and what we're gonna be left with. Uh, and, of course, we still don't know how deep the effect of this is going to be on, uh, the American public and on the, uh, federal budget, or anybody's budget for that Mater. So, a lot of people are wondering about that and how the Planetary Society is going to respond to this crisis. Uh, where space exploration is, as you're fond of saying, we all know what's the most important thing in the world, but not everyone agrees with us.
Bill Nye: [laughs].
Casey Dreier: Well, I don't know if I would stick behind that statement at this very moment, [laughs]. There is... I think public health is [00:24:00] probably the most important thing in the world, literally. Uh, but again, I think what this does is that the role of these types of organizations are, we're goals aren't changing, right? This is a crisis that we face on a global scale, that we... forces us to have to work together, right? It, it reminds us that no country is independent of each other at this point.
Once this media crisis passes, the goals and the outcomes that we're looking for, those are still going to be there. And we still have to make sure that we pursue those goals even though those are gonna take a backseat in terms of public policy, uh, public attention and effort at this moment. As... And honestly as they should. And so, we're gonna keep our long-term focus going, but we also have to strati-... strategically position ourselves and be aware that these things have to happen first.
And Brendan can talk a little bit about that, in terms of in DC, because there's a lot of people who they're getting very stressed out, they're very focused on, you know, the policy making that's happening [00:25:00] now. And if you're a space industry or space company coming into demand, some-something, at this point, you can actually sound quite tone deaf. So Brendan, do you wanna expand on why it's strategically important to just, you know, know how to engage with members of Congress, and our staff at the... and their staffs at this point?
Brendan Curry: Thanks, Casey. There, there's a number of things going on, a number of fronts. Everyone's hearing about industries looking for help, or assistance, or bailouts, or whatever euphemism you wanna use. This is a time for the space industry to stand up and, and rise to the occasion. Our industry i-is renowned for developing high tech, a high quality ruddered state-of-the-art technologies. They're developed with an ini-initial aerospace in defense application that are now being looked at to be repurposed to add-address this health crisis.
I've told Casey this, [00:26:00] the, the Pentagon is gonna be issuing something called an RFI, request for information, on March 31st. And they said they're gonna be looking for a lot of technologies to help them address this situation. And by name, they said space technologies. And the person at the Pentagon who is gonna be leading this effort is actually former NASA administrator, Mike Griffin. And one of his deputies is retired astronaut, Sandy Magnus. I guess what I'm trying to say is your space community is working to rise the, uh... to the occasion, but we as an industry, at the same time, cannot be seen as just looking for a, a handout, or something like that.
Be, be politically tone deaf, uh, uh, in case he's heard me say this before, I was a congressional staffer during 9/11. I, uh, then had the enjoyment of having anthrax mailed to my place of work. [00:27:00] And I saw three types of people during that situation in my life. I had people that were not doing anything to be helpful. I saw people that were q-quite craven and opportunistic. And then I saw people who were just checking in and asking, uh, how they could help. And I think this is an opportunity for us to be those types of the people that are helpful right now.
Casey Dreier: I just wanna remind everybody that these are the three core areas of focus of the Planetary Society; to find life, to explore worlds, and to defend the earth. Uh, we have more about this information in our strategic plan. I encourage all of our members to read that. That's still relatively new. Uh, you can see the URL below. But, uh, we connect these here at the advocacy program and, and policy program. We try to feed back all of our work to these three core enterprises.
Uh, so you can see find life really focuses on our [00:28:00] work on promoting Mars Sample-Return, Europa Clipper and, and missions like WFIRST. Exploring worlds is getting humans to Mars and, and back into deep space really hits on our focus on aspects of the NASA budget, particularly the planetary science division. And then, of course, Mars Sample-Return feeds into these as well. Um, defending earth, in this case, right? We've always talked about asteroid defense, planetary defense from, from near earth objects and comets.
And trying to make sure that we're looking for potentially hazardous objects, that we're finding ways to, uh, prevent them from hitting the earth, if we find them. And otherwise keeping humanity vigilant against that potential threat. Those three things really inform what our priorities are, from a political and policy level, with the caveat that we have to be reactive to the situation on the ground. And in that situation right now is obviously the consequences of the coronavirus that we'll be talking about in a little bit.
Again, you can also see more [00:29:00] information about what we focus on at the Planetary Society, and particularly for our policy and advocacy program at our policy principles. We've set out and expanded a more detailed version of what we spend our time on, on your behalf, at this URL. So, I encourage you to look at those, if you ever have a question about what we're doing here at the Planetary Society, and what's informing our work.
This was our day of action, I just wanna m-, acknowledge the incredible work, and volunteer effort, and just overall effort expanded by your fellow members of the Planetary Society. We had more than 100... Almost 115 people came to Washington, DC, from 28 different states, some as far as Alaska. Uh, this is most of them here in the Senate office building, heart office building, taking this picture. We met with over 160 offices that day.
We had a really positive experience and very, very glad, [laughs], we scheduled this earlier this year before we had issues with the virus.But I just wanted to acknowledge the [00:30:00] incredible work done by just our incredible members. And everyone here in this picture came under their own dime, under their own effort. And that's just really inspiring to me, and Brendan, and Bill, and everybody here at the society. Uh, we-
Bill Nye: The other thing that impressed me, Casey, is, uh, we asked, how many people wanna come back next year? Everybody raised their hand. It was fantastic.
Casey Dreier: Right. And we'll obviously... It's one of those things that we'll look for the reality on the ground, of how to do something like this next year, but we want, these are annual events that we're managing. We saw great growth, in terms of participation this year. Um, so we have lots of, uh, ideas and energy for this, going ahead. So, thanks to everybody who came for that and advocated for space with us at the Planetary Society, back in February.
The three main topics we're gonna talk about today are... Eh, we already kind of talked about this, the coronavirus impact on the global space industry. We're gonna n-, talk about where we are with the NASA budget process. And then, of course, just acknowledge that we're [00:31:00] having a significant political situation coming up with the US presidential elections happening in the fall, that will have or could have significant consequences to, uh, NASA's policy and overall direction. And because NASA is just, is such a large space agency compared to the world, what happens with NASA really does impact a global audience, uh, in the global space, uh, industry.
So, let's start with the first one. Again, we can talk about this a lot. I just wanna mention a few points here. These are... This is changing, literally, by the hour. All of you know that this has been happening very rapidly, so, just, we'll keep this following as we go. But the idea is, you know, we are seeing, already, significant and widespread disruption in the space industry. A lot of that happens from the fact that people are being, uh, quarantined, or at home, or told to stay at home and not go to work. You know, you can do a lot with teleconferencing these days, but you can't bend metal and build the spacecraft remotely, right? That still [00:32:00] requires people to be there.
The next step here is that NASA has a number of response, uh, levels based on, uh, s-, public health and other s-, external situations. What's called stage four is the most extreme response. It's basically an en-entire NASA center being shuttered with only basic security and protecting property in life, uh, its staff allowed to remain. No mission essential personnel even allowed on the NASA centers. So, about half of all NASA s-, uh, facilities are at stage four now. I believe, uh, Marshall Space Flight Center just went to stage four yesterday.
Stage three is, the rest of NASA's at stage three right now. Which means mandatory tele work unless your mission essential. Critically for us, probably as Bill mentioned earlier, this is where at, at Kennedy Space Center is still at stage three. That is where the Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover is under final ATLA, uh, assembly testing, uh, before launch in July. That [00:33:00] mission is continuing to move forward. Uh, that mission is continuing to track a July launch.
It has a three week launch window, thereabouts, a little over three weeks starting July 17th. Of course, as many of you know, if y-, NASA or anyone misses that opportunity to launch to Mars this year, it will be 26 months before the next opportunity to launch. And that will add hundreds of millions of dollars to the cost of that mission should they miss that. That's obviously kind of my big nail biter right now, is if Mars 2020 gets off the ground this year. So far, it is on track.
Uh, we've seen delays, already, for other Mars missions. The ESRS Cosmos mission. ExoMars was delayed partially because of issues related to traveling restrictions around the coronavirus. ESA has suspended scientific operations on a number of, of its missions to keep people at home. And then, also, I think to bigger picture things that we'll see play out on a longer-term time scale, that is important to follow is due to the economic fallout of what we're [00:34:00] going to see here.
And we know we shouldn't sugarcoat this, we-we're gonna be facing an unprece-... are facing an unprecedented economic collapse, or temporary collapse in terms of demand. And it's gonna have echoing and long-term effects. Uh, hopefully not too long term, but we just don't know yet. But what we're already seeing is drying up of venture capital, private money, uh, investment in the space industry.
OneWeb, which was a big, a company that had been receiving billions of dollars, a huge amount of private and investment capital to build a global, or I-I'd say a, a global coverage of, uh, internet providing our communication satellites, uh, just filed for bankruptcy last night, and cited coronavirus. You've seen other small companies like Bigelow Aerospace lay off its entire workforce. This is probably just beginning due to the fact that it's going to be very difficult to continue to raise private investment funds for high risk ventures with long-term payoffs like space. S-, uh, so that is something to keep in mind.
And then, of [00:35:00] course, big picture for public investment, governments, at, at least the US government, other major Western governments, and other major just countries, they can't really go out of business, right? They can't declare bankruptcy. The US is, is fundamentally impossible to be insolvent, but there will be, after this we just saw here in the US, $2.2 trillion, uh, uh, expenditures yesterday, signed by, by the president. There will be others, plus the economic hit, in terms of revenue. There's going to be enormous deficits facing this country, and other countries, coming in the next few years.
When you have historically seen growing deficits, it is harder and harder to spend discretionary funds. This is money that Congress, in this case, chooses to spend every year. And NASA is one of those agencies that receives that optional money, that discretionary money. So, as deficits grow, there'll be enormous pressure to restrain spending, in the next few years, after the immediate parts of the, [00:36:00] uh, coronavirus crisis passes. And so, that will place pressure, very likely, on the potential growth opportunity for NASA and other, uh, nations space budgets.
I just wanna emphasize here, this was equity investments in private industry for private space. Total private was $5.8 billion. I just wanna emphasize that the vast majority of that money, more than five... about $5 billion of it went to late stage, uh, investment rounds for SpaceX and OneWeb. And then the other is basically Blue Origin. So, the scale of investment has been in three companies, basically. One of them which just went bankrupt, and then all the other smaller companies take a fractional size of that pie. Um, so, again, this is, kind of puts into perspective, I think, that there's gonna be a challenging fiscal situation for, uh, private investment into startup space companies.
The NASA budget update, we'll just briefly touch on here. I wanna remind everybody that the NASA [00:37:00] proposal from the White House, here's the overall process, we're only about here right now. Technically, we have a budget resolution from a few years ago that has set spending levels. Again, things are changing so fast that it's unclear what type of process, or how this is gonna move through this year. But we do have the president's budget request for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins October 1st, that has defined out the White House's proposal for NASA.
Again, notably, this all happened before the current virus crisis. And so, that may, and very likely will change the overall political contours of this. But this is the information we have to work with at the moment. Congress has yet to take action on passing through its appropriations bills for the entire government, not just NASA. And again, Congress, I believe, just recessed for about a month. So, we won't see any action on this until April, at the earliest. Though, again, considering the difficulties [00:38:00] facing this country, and every country in the world right now, I would not be surprised if we don't see any action on this for many months, uh, if, if even then.
However, considering what we have seen from NASA so far, from the White House so far, I just wanna put what we're seeing in context. The 21 budget for NASA proposes an increase to $25.5 billion. This is probably everyone's most familiar graph on this curve. Uh, this is NASA's historical funding adjusted for inflation, right? So, keeping as if every dollar was the same at... in the past as it is now. And to put this in context, this would be NASA's best budget basically since the early 1990s. Which is good, but also puts into context how much bigger NASA's budget has been in the past.
That additional funding, uh, has been generally matched by Congress. So, we see the dotted line is what the White House has requested. The green line here is what Congress has ultimately provided, historically. [00:39:00] So, even though the White House budget is a suggestion, right? It's a proposal, historically, congressional action tracks very closely to what the White House proposes. Historically, right? So, that's something to keep in mind. So, we take this seriously. The five year projection that the White House has made, again, back in February, for NASA, is also very good.
You see that growth continuing forward, peaking at almost $28 billion in 2023. And primarily, we'll just zoom in here on this proposed growth area. And you can see the major areas of NASA as proposed in this budget, with functionally the largest growth happening this big bottom gray bulge there; human spaceflight, Artemis, going to the moon. Everything else at NASA is functionally kept flat. Just reminding everybody what our current lunar plans were.
These are going to change, uh, I... probably within the next few months, based on an internal review [00:40:00] happening at NASA right now. But this is what has been funded in the president's budget request. Overall, they have put their money where their mouth was in supporting this effort. So, this is some of the best proposed funding we've seen for NASA, basically since the, uh, space exploration initiative back in the late '80s, or early 1990s, under George H. W. Bush.
Something near and dear to my heart and, and our hearts here is planetary science. Just to acknowledge this very quickly, here's the last 10 years, again, adjusted for inflation, at planetary science within NASA. The dotted line is the White House proposal. The solid line is what Congress has ultimately appropriated. You have seen, through our work over the years trying to get Congress to add more than the White House's, uh, budget proposal has been very successful.
But also just the incredible growth we have seen in the last few years in this program, getting up to about $2.7 billion. And [00:41:00] so, last year we had $2.7, and this year we have slightly less $2.66. You round it, it's $2.7. Uh, a few tweaks to get back to where it was, historically, can address a few of the minor shortfalls. But, overall, a very good situation to be in, compared to where we were back in 2013, 2014.
So, again, this is a very solid budget for planetary science. It supports just a couple of things I'll call out here. Both ESA and NASA now have approval to begin at Mars Sample-Return campaign. This is... [laughs], I chose this chart from ESA to show just how complex this process is going to be, but it's very, very exciting to see this moving forward.
ESA's ministerial, uh, meeting back in November of 2019, approved funding for the ESA contribution. They're coming in with a major multi-mission multi-billion Euro contribution to this effort. And you're also seeing NASA as this budget includes a good portion for 2026 Fetch Rover, or Fetch [00:42:00] mission and, and Mars Ascent Vehicle for launching in '26. And, uh, with entering formal, uh, formulation, that a formal start of the project as early as this summer. So, that might be delayed based on, obviously, what we're seeing with the, with the virus.
Uh, it also continues to fund Europa Clipper for it now, at '24 launch date due to disagreement on which rocket to use to launch it. Congress wants the SLS and NASA wants a commercial rocket. Unfortunately, there was no funding for a near earth objects surveillance mission dedicated space telescope. Which was a surprise based on previous statements made by, uh, NASA administrator... uh, officials. And so, that's one of the issues that we have to deal with when we are gonna be engaging in this again.
And finally, I just wanna make one more acknowledgement here about coming up, some of the issues we'll be facing. Obviously, a big presidential election year and congressional elections, obviously, also happen, too. The entire House is up for reelection. A third of the Senate is up for reelection. That's in the... in November. I usually like to [00:43:00] say, when you're facing something like this, uh, with an election, i-it's almost like trying to project your analysis through the event horizon of a black hole. It's a singularity that becomes very hard.
Bill Nye: [laughs].
Casey Dreier: Physics kind of breaks down.
Bill Nye: [laughs].
Casey Dreier: But then, of course, this year we have something additional, which is that we have the coronavirus situation. And so, really, w-, it's like we're facing two black holes singularity events together, and trying to model what the outcome of the general-
Bill Nye: [laughs].
Casey Dreier: ... regular policy process is going to be. You can kind of do that in some ways-
Bill Nye: [laughs].
Casey Dreier: ... but let's just say physics tends to break down with this stuff. And just like, uh, politics here, it's going to be very difficult to predict, exactly, the ripple effects about what's going to come out of the combination of coronavirus and the upcoming presidential elections, for how it's going to impact NASA's immediate future. Uh, so that's going to be just a challenge for all of us to keep in mind.
Mat Kaplan: And I think it's probably [00:44:00] safe to say that even though, no Mater what people say, we don't know what lies on the other side of that November, 2020, black hole, the cup... Planetary Society will continue to make waves.
Casey Dreier: Mm-hmm [affirmative].
Bill Nye: Oh, wow, wow, see what he did there?
Mat Kaplan: [laughs]. Stay with us for the rest of the March 28, space policy and politics briefing from the Planetary Society. And, and then Casey and I will be back to, uh, say farewell.
Debra Fischer: Hi, I'm Yale astronomer, Debra Fischer. I've spent the last 20 years of my professional life searching for other worlds. Now I've taken on the 100 Earth's project. We want to discover 100 earth sized exoplanets circling nearby stars. It won't be easy. With your help, the Planetary Society will fund a key component of an exquisitely precise spectrometer. You can learn more and join the search at planetary.org/100earths. Thanks.
Mat Kaplan: We're back with the, uh, briefing held on Saturday, March 28th. Bill Nye, Brendan Curry, Casey [00:45:00] Dreier, and me, Mat Kaplan. We'll pick up with more from Casey.
Casey Dreier: Two things just to keep in mind, we know President Trump's Space Policy, it's being executed right now. We're going to assume Biden is the very likely democratic nominee. Uh, he has not said anything, nor is there anything publicly stated about space on his campaign website. That's not unusual, historically speaking. We will probably see more details as they staff up their policy side when they get closer to the election itself. As they start to prepare a potential transition team building out a broader policy.
And it's very likely it'll be similar to, uh, what we saw in the Obama era. And also we can look to existing democratic proposals from the House of Representatives for guidance and in the areas that we will likely see changes, or continuity in. But again, as Bill said, big picture, here's where we are, and this is what we need to, you know, remember as we face this, space is taking a back seat to the crisis at hand.
That's reasonable, [laughs], I think. And that's just [00:46:00] what... where we need to accept that that's going to be. Now is not the time to engage your lawmakers on space issues. We're not gonna be asking you to take action for a while until the time is right. Where we have the appropriate time to make a real effort and not undermine our goals by seeming out of touch, as Brendan said.
The Planetary Society, we already submitted feedback outlines, formal requests for appropriations back before the virus crisis hit. So, we've already given our feedback to a number of formal input opportunities to key members of Congress and congressional committees, uh, back in February and early March. Again, as I mentioned at the beginning of this, we're a society. We're a Planetary Society. We depend on you, and we can't succeed if we don't have you with us.
And so it's critical, obviously, for us, you don't need us to tell you this, but to just prioritize your psychological and physical health, going forward. You know, we want you to follow your interest and be ready to engage again when the [00:47:00] crisis subsides. And so, the Planetary Society is gonna be putting out a lot of great content, opportunities to engage and to think about really exciting things in the future, because the future is still out there. There's so many exciting things to look forward to.
We could see people walking on the moon. We could maybe discover life on another planet, or we could discover b-, astrobiological sig-, you know, signals in the atmospheres of distant exoplanets. We can return samples from Mars, for the first time in human history, uh, that were curated and selected by scientist here on earth.
All of this stuff is possible if we want it to happen, and if we work to make it happen. We're facing this crisis now, but once that passes within the next year, all of these opportunities still remain. And that's, we're gonna keep focusing on the big picture op-, uh, optimistic, exciting future that faces humanity, uh, here at the Planetary Society.
So, that's the end of my formal remarks, I would say. [00:48:00] And we can start taking questions, or follow up on any of the things that we just started to talk about.
Mat Kaplan: Bill, it occurred to me, when I was listening to NPR this morning, they were talking about how we need to build excess capacity in our hospital, our health care system, uh, because there may be another pandemic. I thought that that might just relate to planetary protection, as well.
Bill Nye: You may be right, also.
Casey Dreier: Oh, oh, and that being protection or defense asteroid?
Mat Kaplan: Oh, you know, p-, my mistake. Terrible. I'm thinking planetary protection because I'm doing the thing on that next week. You are absolutely right, Casey, planetary defense, thank you.
Bill Nye: I thought you were excited to have planetary protection, Mat.
Mat Kaplan: Hmm, well, we could, but it's not-
Bill Nye: They're related, all right. So, here's the idea-
Mat Kaplan: ... like politics and policy.
Bill Nye: ... we don't want the earth-
Mat Kaplan: Sorry about that, [laughs].
Bill Nye: We don't want the earth to get hit with an asteroid. It is, as the hilarious saying goes, a very low probability event with very high consequences.
Casey Dreier: High impact, yeah, [laughs].
Bill Nye: Very unlikely, but very bad if it happens. So, uh, to Mat's point, uh, or to the NPR point, is having excess hospital capacity could be [00:49:00] really good? Now, we may... you may think of asteroids as a complete total catastrophe wiping out civilization as we know it, as what probably, or seems to almost certainly have happened to the ancient dinosaurs. But it's also possible that a big asteroid impact destroys a county, or, uh, the edge of a big city, or something. And then you'll want hospital beds. That's absolutely true.
But this whole idea that it's not important, I think, is, is not right. It's, it's a re-, it's a real thing. And it is, as the saying goes, the only preventable natural disaster. And as you may know, [laughs]... I don't know how long all of you have been members. And once again, thank you for your support, but as an engineer, I'm just kooky for the Laser Bees. So, what we would do is find, uh, an asteroid 20 years away gonna hi-, gonna cross the Earth's orbit in 20 [00:50:00] years.
And either run something into it, uh, set off a nuclear weapon near enough. It has enough particles and pressure waves going out to give it a nudge. Send a giant, giant spacecraft that's massive. And its, its massive gravity would give the asteroid a tug, or beam a bunch of lasers at the thing so that the ablating, the burning off material would have enough momentum to nudge it. And so, w-, for those of you who have been members long enough, we did this study at Strathclyde University, in Scotland. And, uh, it's doable. If you have a powerful enough laser and you knew... and you could identify the right rock, you could do it.
But you won't be able to do it unless you're prepared, unless you're thinking about it. And by you, I mean society. Unless we're really ready to take action, then an... as far as destination agnostic spacecraft, it's [00:51:00] very reasonable. If you... If we had the space launch system for real, this big rocket for real, or if companies like Blue Origins, SpaceX are able to build very large brackets, we would deploy those, use those to nudge an asteroid in some fashion.
And so, this is, takes this steady drum beat, as the saying goes, because although everybody in a conversation, uh, in a congressional office acknowledges that it's a possibility, making sure it's funded all the time is... takes a steady effort from our... or our organization, especially. First thing is finding the asteroids. That's the first thing. Over to you, Casey.
Casey Dreier: Mat and Bill, this is abso-... I think we should just dive into this a little bit. Because there already are so many parallels to what we're watching now, in terms of crisis response, to a situation of planetary defense. Where if we detect an asteroid coming our way, we have a certain amount of uncertainty [00:52:00] early on. And that certainty grows, and the cost of dealing with that also grows.
So, again, in the US, we just passed a $2.2 trillion emergency relief bill yesterday. And think of how much cheaper it would have been to put the proper prevention in place early on, but at the time, it's hard to spend the money. We look at the same comparison for planetary defense. It's hard to get NA-...
Like NASA now is spending $150 million, or $160, in 2019. And that's the largest budget it's ever had, historically. The last two years of NASA funding at that level account for 90% of all planetary science funding, uh, in the United States, [laughs], in its history. The amount of money we put in now could have huge benefits in the future. But again-
Bill Nye: And just a little perspective on, let's say you had this extraordinary perfectly figured out spacecraft that would look for asteroids, specifically, uh, that would cross this orbit. The [00:53:00] estimate is about $450 million for such a spacecraft.
Casey Dreier: For that mission, yup.
Bill Nye: We're spending a third of that every year on all of the planetary defense programs.
Casey Dreier: Yup, exactly right.
Bill Nye: This is an opportunity to, uh, adjust the knobs a little bit.
Casey Dreier: This will be an interesting thing to discover after we pass through the immediate crisis here. Is, how willing will political systems be, particularly in democracies that are subject to more immediate whims of the, uh, body politic, for spending money on preventative efforts of a variety of things, for public health and for national security, or planetary security? So, I think-
Mat Kaplan: Brendan, I-
Casey Dreier: ... there's a lot we can learn from what's happening now, uh, and apply to planetary defense.
Mat Kaplan: Brendan, I think you might wanna get in on this, but I also wanna ask you, do you have any sense from your congressional contacts that planetary defense is something that could fall by the wayside? Is there enough sustained interest?
Brendan Curry: N-no, there, there, there is clearly [00:54:00] sustained interest.
Mat Kaplan: [laughs].
Brendan Curry: The only concern I've heard, I was actually on the phone earlier with a, a friend of ours, uh, at the Applied Physics Lab, that they're working on this thing called DAC. And they're worried that that's a mission that they're... that's got very popular su-support, but now they're worried about, since they can't get into work on that spacecraft, is it gonna delay its ability to get out the door, essentially? Um, may-
Bill Nye: But see, there's a launch perio-... You, you can't-
Mat Kaplan: Yeah.
Bill Nye: ... do it just anytime. Y-you... The thing will get far... too far away and-
Casey Dreier: You gotta catch that hard.
Brendan Curry: Yeah, yeah.
Bill Nye: Yeah, yeah.
Brendan Curry: O-orbital mechanics-
Bill Nye: The orbit take it too far away, yeah.
Brendan Curry: Orbital mechanics don't care about what's going on, on earth with humans if... And the other thing I wanted to say was that, uh, NASA has chartered with trying to i-, uh, identify track and assess NEOs that could be problematic. But everyone knows, essentially, that, God forbid, something that is a [00:55:00] threat is discovered, everyone's gonna be looking at the Pentagon to neutralize that threat.
And so, I-I'm a member of this thing called the Joint Space Task Group, and we, we meet at the Pentagon. And I suggested that we bring in Casey for a briefing, from the Planetary Society, to talk about the NEO threat. Who we met in a secure facility, the basement of the Pentagon.
And I've been going to, uh, a number of these meetings for a number of years, and this was the most well-attended one I've ever been to. And we had people from the CIA, the NRO, the British MoD, the Air Force, the Army, the Navy, the Space Development Agency. There was a thirst from the national security and intelligence community to hear from us on this.
Mat Kaplan: That's so cool. That more evidence of-
Bill Nye: Well, it's a start.
Mat Kaplan: Yeah.
Bill Nye: It's a start. And, uh, and, uh-
Mat Kaplan: And more evidence of what the society is able to contribute.
Bill Nye: I mean, Casey and Brendan got invited to this [00:56:00] meeting at the Pentagon because we've this, this shared interest.
Mat Kaplan: Let's jump back to a specific mission. And it's one that all of us, all of our members care deeply about.
Bill Nye: Hmm.
Mat Kaplan: A lot of questions about this. One from Michael Neufeld, I'll read his, "What is the status of the Europa Clipper launch vehicle choice?" And you had it in one of your slides, uh, Casey, you didn't get a chance to talk about it. Is Europa clipper in any kind of jeopardy?
Casey Dreier: Europa Clipper's, I think, doing okay right now, from my latest understanding of it. Again, that could be changing very dramatically. Uh, it's in phase C, so it's under, eh, implementation, now they're starting to bend metal. The issue with the launch vehicle is an increasing worry of mine. And in some sense, that's the, uh, the original kind of a bargain coming up to really impact that mission.
Using the space launch system can get you to, uh, Jupiter in two and a half years, or so. Commercial rockets will take a lot longer to get there. There is [00:57:00] a strong political interest in utilizing the SLS for all so-sorts of missions. And so, it is currently written into law, uh, that the Europa Clipper must use the SLS.
The problem is that the current procurement time for an SLS rocket is about five years. And so, to make a 2023 launch date, which is currently the target, uh, finish point of the spacecraft, the rocket would have had to have been began to be built two years ago. Obviously, that didn't happen. So, right now, you couldn't launch any earlier than '25, on the spacecraft.
Meaning you'd have to stick it in storage after you finish it, tens of millions of dollars to keep it in storage. NASA's trying to procure and has been proposing to use a commercial launch vehicle, at this point. Probably the s-, the Falcon Heavy, that it will be, well, obviously cheaper. It won't get you there as fast. You'd have to have additional shielding, uh, thermal issues to go through the inner solar system, uh, but it can be ready sooner.
Because of that ongoing division on the rocket, you can't close some of the [00:58:00] engineering decision trees on h-how you, uh, adapt the spacecraft to the rocket, 'cause they don't know the launch vehicle. And you have to have ongoing delays, in terms of launch, because it still takes time to procure a Falcon Heavy, uh, or other commercial launch vehicle.
And so, right now, the... this current NASA budget actually pushes the launch date to 2024, regardless. And if we don't resolve this soon, we'll be in a situation, I think, very similar to Galileo. Where you had the spacecraft was ready to go but faced a increasing backlog on the space shuttle. At the time it was using uncertain second stage launch vehicle on the space shuttle.
And then, of course, the challenger disaster ultimately pushed it back. And by sitting so long, it added millions, tens of millions of dollars to the cost of Galileo. And, of course, led to the partial failure they intended to deploy in, which really impacted the, the science success of the mission. So, it's something I'm growing increasingly concerned about.
You saw some language in the NASA authorization bill proposed by the House of Representatives earlier in this year, [00:59:00] that called for a study on what launch vehicle to use. But clearly we're not talking about that right now, [laughs], uh, nor is that bill going to be moving through Congress anytime soon.
And so, you're continually stuck unless Congress releases NASA from that legal requirement to launch on the space launch system, or somehow Boeing is able to produce those at a faster rate to, to launch it. So, it's in a, it's in a bad place, I think, at this point.
Mat Kaplan: Bill, any slippage in the, uh, Planetary Society support for this, uh, this terrific mission?
Bill Nye: No.
Mat Kaplan: [laughs].
Bill Nye: Excuse me, um-
Mat Kaplan: [laughs], that's what I wanted to hear.
Bill Nye: No, it'd be fantastic, you guys to, um... Since I was in school, people have talked about the possibility of life on Europa. In any case, it's an extraordinary world that everybody wants to have a look at it. There's so many of the technical or scientific engineering problems have been solved with respect to that mission. [01:00:00] Just how to get it out there, how to get... to deal with Jupiter's radiation, the number of orbits, and so on, it's all been figured out.
Mat Kaplan: We've seen the administration every year cut all EPO, education and public outreach funding for NASA and Congress restore it. Sometimes at an even higher level. We're seeing that again. Brendan, we'll start with you. Do you believe Congress will once again restore those funds? And then, the second part of that question is, for many people, if it gets caught, will the Planetary Society be able to be a part of stepping up and filling in that hole? That black hole. Brendan?
Brendan Curry: NASA's education office has the ability to issue grants across States. There's always gonna be congressional appetite to, uh, ensure that office is funded. The issue has been, even back when I was on the Hill, there was concerns as to how that office was managed.
And th-there were even [01:01:00] a couple of times where Congress zeroed out its funding just to kind of, in one of their earlier versions of the appropriations bill a c-... in a certain year, just to kind of scare them or shake them back into, you know, straighten up and fly right, kind of thing.
I think it's gonna be fine. You know, there's enough people that are beneficiaries of tho-... tha-... those grants, that, uh, I, I don't see the political appetite to, uh, zero it out. I think it's a, a statement, essentially, from the office of management and budget saying, "Straighten up and fly right."
Casey Dreier: It's like the tides, Mat. The-
Mat Kaplan: [laughs].
Casey Dreier: As regular as the tides-
Mat Kaplan: [laughs].
Casey Dreier: ... they proposed cuts to the STEM outreach division and Congress will restore them. And so it goes in and out, right?
Mat Kaplan: Mm-hmm [affirmative]. Mm-hmm [affirmative].
Casey Dreier: And we've seen this for many years in a row now. I... If there's one thing I'm certain about in the age of uncertainty we live in, is that that office will continue next year.
Mat Kaplan: Bill-
Bill Nye: Yeah.
Mat Kaplan: Uh, you're, you're rumored to have some [01:02:00] expertise in STEM, uh, Bill. Uh-
Bill Nye: [laughs].
Mat Kaplan: ... what would be the Planetary Society's role, whether it's cut or not?
Bill Nye: Well, for those of you who have taken the, the time to check out our strategic framework for the next five years, using the funds from people like you, we have a plan to develop a curriculum for, uh, teachers and for people outside of the classroom.
There's a, uh, there's a technical expression in education called, uh, informal education, and that means education outside the classroom. And when it comes to science in the United States, and in most of the developed world, about half, or a little more than half of what you learn about science, you learn outside of the classroom.
And this has long been, uh, something touted in various ways, about NASA itself, and European Space Agency, and Canadian Space Agency, especially. It is [01:03:00] how it engages young people, how these programs rather, uh, these agencies engage young people so that we have engineers and scientists in the pipeline to make discoveries and change the course of human history, and so on.
So, the, the Planetary Society plans to go ahead with our education strategic framework in the coming years, if the, uh, education public outreach budget at NASA is significant. We caught Casey claims, "Oh, that could never happen." We are gonna stay the course.
And with your support, we're gonna actually tell you bluntly, this is something that our founders really believed in. Lou Friedman, Bruce Murray, Carl Sagan, very much one of the Planetary Society to be involved in education. I mean, Carl Sagan was fundamental. I mean, he's an academic, but he was an educator.
Mat Kaplan: Brendan, 10 seconds, uh, to close this out there from inside the beltway, you're our wrap.
Brendan Curry: Stay tuned, and, uh, w-we'll be seeing you soon. And th-, and thank you for the time, especially on a [01:04:00] Saturday, and just be well.
Mat Kaplan: Casey, I know you have much more fantastic research that I've seen previews of, I and my colleagues, that you're gonna be sharing soon, looking across the entire history of really this... the space age, uh, and the history of NASA. Great stuff to look forward to, folks. Thank you for your support of the Planetary Society. Thank you for joining us. Thank you for your membership. We will be talking to you again very soon.
There you have it, highlights of the March 28, 2020, space policy and politics briefing from the Planetary Society. Uh, from our members to you, because it was our members, of course, who make all of this possible. All the good stuff that you just heard about, that, uh, Bill, Casey, and Brendan are up to on our behalf.
And, in fact, even that program, um, eh, it is our members who, uh, allow us to do everything that we do at the Planetary Society. And so, we thank all of those who have... of you who are, and we hope that the others of you who, who can consider such a thing right now, uh, will take a [01:05:00] look at planetary.org/membership. Great program, Casey. I look forward to doing this again.
Casey Dreier: Absolutely, Mat. And everyone out there, please stay healthy and sane. Come and join us at the Planetary Society, at our website. We'll be posting lots of content, more projects, more stuff, just to focus on stuff farther afield than what we're facing now. Because I, I always keep thinking about, there's so many wonderful things yet to happen in space exploration. And once we get through this crisis, they're gonna be waiting for us to tackle in the next decade. It's going to be w-, an amazing decade coming up.
Mat Kaplan: We're lucky. We, uh, get paid to look up, and, uh, we hope that you'll keep doing that with us. Uh, and by the way, be on the lookout for more live and interactive events from the Planetary Society. Like so many other organizations, we recognize that, uh, this, uh, move is going to be more important now than ever, and, uh, we're making some plans.
So, stay tuned. Nothing specific just yet, but, uh, I think you'll have a chance to hear, uh, more of Casey, and [01:06:00] perhaps more of me, and some of our colleagues as well, uh, in the coming weeks as, uh, as we face this challenge together.
And, of course, I hope you'll tune in to the weekly edition of Planetary Radio. There's a new one every Wednesday morning. There has been for 17 and a half years. Uh, thanks again, Casey. I'll be talking with you soon.
Casey Dreier: All right. We'll be in touch, Mat. Stay safe, everybody.