Bill Nye Calls on President Obama to Embrace Planetary Exploration for NASA’s Future
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 12/09/2013
Pasadena, CA (December 9, 2013) - Bill Nye the Science Guy® and CEO of The Planetary Society sent President Barack Obama an open letter last week, asking him to move the country’s space program forward by embracing planetary exploration at NASA. The Planetary Society released a recording of Mr. Nye reading his letter on YouTube where it has been viewed by more than half a million people.
“Planetary science deserves special attention, because it is special. It is a remarkable value in which we should maintain or even increase our investment,” impassioned Nye. “Right now, what NASA does best is explore the Solar System through the Planetary Science program.”
In recent months, NASA’s Planetary Science Division has seen continued successes: Cassini, the first spacecraft in history to orbit Saturn, sent back a stunning new portrait of the ringed planet and the Earth and is priming for a dramatic new phase of its mission; the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) spacecraft demonstrated advanced laser communications from lunar orbit; and the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution mission (MAVEN) launched successfully for the Red Planet in a quest to understand how Mars lost its atmosphere.
But the White House has proposed deep cuts to the Planetary Science Budget in the past two NASA budget requests. Due to these cuts, in recent months NASA was forced to cancel a promising new way to generate power for spacecraft, reduced research funding for scientists, and is considering the premature termination of active missions like Cassini at Saturn.
Mr. Nye and the Planetary Society believe that the President should request $1.5 billion – less than 10% of NASA’s total funding– for the Planetary Science Division in his FY2015 budget. $1.5 billion is the historical average for the program, and would allow NASA to maintain a balance of cutting-edge scientific research, engineering, and new missions, which should include a mission to explore Jupiter’s moon Europa and to start a campaign to return a sample of Mars to the Earth.
By embracing a bold vision of exploration, the President can tap into a fundamental national quality and create a unique legacy in his second term.
“With a space program, everyone in our society comes to believe and expect that any problem we face can be solved. It's inherently optimistic. It's part of our national character,” concluded Nye.
The space program, NASA, is the best brand the United States has. Everywhere in the world, people respect and admire what NASA does. Right now, what NASA does best is explore the Solar System through the Planetary Science Program.
People around the world shared the seven minutes of terror as we lowered an extraordinary car bristling with extraordinary instruments onto the surface of Mars from a crane held aloft in that alien sky by rockets. Many thought it was impossible because nothing like it had ever been done before. You and your family remember applauding as a replica of that rover rolled by in the inaugural parade.
Over the last few years, Congress has added back funding for the planetary program that the Office of Management and Budget has cut. We all understand it's a push and pull process–a negotiation. But planetary science deserves special attention, because it is special. It is a remarkable value in which we should maintain or even increase our investment. We recommend that planetary science receive $1.5 billion dollars a year. That's less than 10% of NASA's budget, which in turn is less than 0.5% of the federal budget.
The planetary science division of the space program accomplishes extraordinary things, because it is extraordinary. We want to look for signs of life on other worlds, places like Jupiter's moon Europa and Saturn's moon Enceladus. That work is done by our planetary explorers, scientists and engineers who really are seeking signs of life on another world. Such a discovery would be astounding. It would, as so many astronomical discoveries have, change the course of human history.
Planetary exploration not only brings us astonishing discoveries from other worlds, it inherently leads to innovation, because we invest in solving problems that have never been solved before. That in turn creates new businesses and economic growth. But more importantly, supporting a robust space program raises everyone's expectation of what's possible. With a space program, everyone in our society comes to believe and expect that any problem we face can be solved. It's inherently optimistic. It's part of our national character.
So Mr. President: we strongly recommend that you make sure that funding for the planetary science program is at least $1.5 billion dollars per year. It will keep our current missions flying, ensure we create new missions, and it will lead to amazing new innovations, new businesses, and new discoveries for our future. Investing in planetary science changes the world.
Bill Nye Chief Executive Officer The Planetary Society Pasadena, California