From the Chief Advocate
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has already led to dramatic consequences throughout the world. And while our hearts and minds must be focused on the humanitarian catastrophe in Ukraine, I’d like to acknowledge some of the rapid shifts occurring in space policy.
ISS operations remain unchanged. This is a dynamic situation, of course, but it has raised serious concerns about the effort to extend the ISS to 2030 — which requires Russian agreement — and what comes after.
Other missions are seeing more immediate consequences. ESA signaled that its beleaguered ExoMars rover — finally set to launch on a Russian rocket later this year — will likely miss its launch window as they reconsider their partnership. Other science partnerships for Venus and the Moon are likely to dissolve as well.
Perhaps spurred by events in Ukraine, the U.S. Congress finally funded the government, nearly six months late. Due to large increases in defense spending, there was less money available for domestic science programs. NASA grew at a smaller-than-expected rate, though it still grew relative to the previous year.
I am pleased to report that 115 Planetary Society members from 33 states met with 161 congressional offices during our Day of Action. They brought a message of hope and shared values: focusing on how NASA exemplifies our society’s commitment to curiosity, scientific exploration and peaceful cooperation. When the world feels at its worst, we must invest in our best.
Like many of you, I’ve found myself re-reading The Pale Blue Dot by Society co-founder Carl Sagan. I’d like to close this month with an excerpt from that book, this beautiful little panegyric to space and humanity's soul:
“We, who cannot even put our own planetary home in order, riven with rivalries and hatreds; are we to venture out into space?
By the time we are ready to settle even the nearest other planetary systems, we will have changed...it will be a species very like us, but with more of our strengths, and fewer of our weaknesses…
For all our failings, despite our limitations and fallibilities, we humans are capable of greatness. What new wonders undreamt of in our time, will we have wrought in another generation, and another?
Our remote descendants, safely arrayed on many worlds through the solar system…will gaze up and strain to find the blue dot in their skies. They will marvel at how vulnerable the repository of all our potential once was, how perilous our infancy, how humble our beginnings, how many rivers we had to cross, before we found our way.”
--Carl Sagan, The Pale Blue Dot
Until next time,
The Planetary Society
Space Policy Highlights
Russia’s war in Ukraine threatens joint missions to Mars, Venus and the Moon (scientificamerican.com) "In the weeks since Vladimir Putin sent Russian troops storming into neighboring Ukraine, blowback from that invasion has erupted around the world — and off-world, too. As the crisis deepens, it is increasingly disrupting international cooperation on present and planned projects for space science and exploration, potentially jeopardizing their future."
How to save the International Space Station and prevent the dreaded "gap" in low-Earth orbit (arstechnica.com) "Virtually
every diplomatic and economic tie between Russia's space industry and
Europe and the United States has been severed but one — the International Space Station. The partnership is increasingly tenuous, and no one knows what will happen next."
NASA to get $24 billion for FY 2022, more than last year but less than Biden wanted (spacepolicyonline.com) "The final total is a bit of surprise. The House Appropriations Committee approved $25.040 billion and the Senate Appropriations Committee recommended $24.837 billion. Neither bill passed their respective chambers. There are no dramatic changes, just modest cuts or increases here and there. All of NASA’s human spaceflight, science, technology, aeronautics and STEM education programs, as well as agency operations, are funded."
115 Planetary Society members from 33 states advocated to Congress in our Day of Action (planetary.org) "We emphasized the value of space exploration as a way to invest in our higher ideals. Space exploration brings out the best in us. It drives collaboration, inspires curiosity and challenges our best and brightest to pursue challenging, rewarding careers.
Planetary Radio: Space Policy Edition
It's the 50th anniversary of Pioneer 10, the first spacecraft to the outer planets. Pioneers 10 and 11 were scrappy, low-cost endeavors that blazed the path for future exploration. But the future has been expensive: outer planets missions are some of the priciest planetary probes in history. Can we get back to a pioneering spirit and increase the frequency of outer planet exploration? To find out, we talk with Mark Wolverton, author of “The Depths of Space: The Story of the Pioneer Probes,” and Scott Bolton, principal investigator for Juno, the most affordable Jupiter mission in decades.
Casey and Mat also discuss the dynamic and tragic situation in Ukraine, and its implications for space.