The Space Advocate • Dec 14, 2022
The Space Advocate Newsletter, December 2022
Invest in the future of space
A note from the Chief Advocate
We had a number of ambitious advocacy goals this year at The Planetary Society, and I’m pleased to say that we achieved nearly all of them! If you are a member and/or took action with us this year, I cannot thank you enough. You are why we do this.
If you aren’t a member or supporter and enjoy seeing our advocacy results, reading our newsletters, listening to our podcasts, or learning from our policy analyses, please consider supporting us. The Planetary Society plays a unique role as an independent, pro-space science, pro-exploration voice in U.S. politics — no other organization has our resources and focus.
So please consider donating to The Planetary Fund before the end of the year. Your gift will make 2x the impact, thanks to a $100,000 match from a generous Society member. Help us explore worlds, find life, and defend Earth when you give today.
Looking back at our 2022 advocacy goals
*Asterisks in chart indicate congressional appropriations that are not final at the time of writing.
NEO Surveyor was our top advocacy priority, as it was singled out for punishing cuts this year to sustain cost overruns in other projects. We wanted two things: to restore NEO Surveyor funding in FY 2023 and to secure congressional legislation formally directing NASA to pursue the mission (i.e. an “authorization”).
Our Day of Action participants hammered home the importance of NEO Surveyor in their meetings with Congress, as did more than 5,000 people who wrote their representatives and the White House. We partnered with the National Space Society to release a joint letter defending the mission, and I was quoted critiquing NASA’s decision in articles published by major press outlets.
Congress responded by adding $55 million (in the House) and $40 million (in the Senate), below our goal but substantial nonetheless, and more notable given that only a handful of NASA projects saw congressional increases this year. Final appropriations are yet to come, and we are optimistic that NEO Surveyor will do well if legislation is passed this year.
More importantly, Congress passed legislation formally directing NASA to develop NEO Surveyor and to avoid cutting funding again, even if there are overruns in other projects.
To cap it all off, just last week NASA made a formal cost and schedule commitment to NEO Surveyor, swinging the beleaguered project into full development mode and targeting a 2028 launch date. This commitment almost certainly means full funding for the project next year.
The Planetary Society saw more high-priority items included in the authorization bill: Mars Sample Return was authorized, we did NOT see language limiting NASA’s ability to contract with commercial partners to develop lunar landing capabilities, and NASA’s astrobiology program can now fund research into “technosignatures” — including intelligent signals — when looking for life beyond Earth.
We did not secure an increase for basic planetary science research, an effort we shared with other professional scientific societies. We also did not achieve our budget growth goal for NASA’s Planetary Science Division, though it does stand to grow more than any other NASA science program. Overall we are quite happy with our results.
Other achievements this year include publishing my peer-reviewed paper on the cost of Apollo, and releasing The Planetary Society’s commercial spaceflight principles. I also did hundreds (I lost count) of media interviews to provide our unique viewpoint on key space issues and continue to build the credibility of our organization.
And last but not least, I wrote this monthly newsletter and published 12 more episodes of the Space Policy Edition podcast. It is a great privilege to work for you, our members and supporters. Thank you all.
Happy December Solstice!
The Planetary Society
Space Policy Highlights
NEO Surveyor is confirmed (planetary.org) "After more than 15 years, NASA last week moved NEO Surveyor — an asteroid-hunting space telescope and top priority of The Planetary Society’s advocacy efforts in recent years — into its official development phase. This represents the agency’s formal commitment to the project, laying down a firm 2028 launch date and cost estimate of $1.2 billion USD. It is vanishingly rare for a NASA project to suffer cancellation once it reaches this stage."
Welcome to the new Moon age (axios.com) "The SLS program has been plagued by extreme cost overruns and delays, but experts argue that without the rocket, the Artemis program — and NASA's return to the Moon in general — wouldn't exist."
ESA Gets Big Increase, Commits to ISS Through 2030 and ExoMars Rover in 2028 (spacepolicyonline.com) "ESA's governing Ministerial Council approved a 17 percent increase in funding, committed to support the International Space Station through 2030, and vowed to ensure that the Rosalind Franklin rover makes it to Mars after the European-Russian ExoMars project was derailed by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. On top of all that, ESA announced a new class of astronauts."
What happens to Musk’s space ambitions now that he owns Twitter? (spacenews.com) "Musk is more distracted from space than ever. His attention, long balanced between SpaceX and electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla, now seems consumed by his latest acquisition, Twitter. Since taking over the social media company in a quixotic $44 billion acquisition in October, he has been fully engaged trying to remake — or break — the company."
Planetary Radio: Space Policy Edition
NASA's Economic Impact with Alex MacDonald and Joshua Drucker
NASA supports nearly 340,000 jobs spread throughout every state in the union, generates billions of dollars of tax revenue, and invests in critical high-tech, high-skilled workers. But how do we know this? A new report, prepared by a team at the University of Illinois, Chicago and sponsored by NASA's Chief Economist, provides sound economic analysis behind understanding the immense benefit of the U.S. space program. We dive into how this analysis is done, how to interpret the results, and why this information is critical for developing good space policy.