Policy is the prime mover of space exploration. It sets in motion government resources, defines regulatory requirements, and releases funds from national treasures. Good policy is therefore critical for success in space.
The Planetary Society participates in the process of developing space policy by providing original analysis, releasing policy recommendations, and generating useful data for public and academic use.
NASA Recommendations for the Biden Administration (PDF)
The Planetary Society's recommendations provide a proven pathway to galvanizing the nation by way of an invigorated space program. They are both achievable and affordable; inspirational and eminently practical. These investments benefit the taxpayer directly through economic, safety, and workforce benefits; indirectly via the inspiration of a new generation of scientists, engineers, and critical-thinkers; and spiritually, through the profound nature of new discoveries and insights into our cosmos.
The Search for Life as a Guidepost to Scientific Revolution (PDF)
In this submission to the 2023 - 2032 planetary science decadal survey, The Planetary Society argued for the importance of the search for life, not just as an inspiring goal, but as a means to achieve a scientific revolution within biology and medicine. Unlike past revolutions, searching for life presents a clear pathway for success: we know how to do it and we know where to look.
Increasing the Scope of Planetary Defense Activities: Programs, Strategies, and Relevance in a Post-COVID-19 World (PDF)
In this submission to the 2023 - 2032 planetary science decadal survey, The Planetary Society argued that, due to COVID-19, the public is very aware of the value of disaster preparation. Combined with the coming Apophis flyby, there is a new immediacy for investments into planetary defense, the ultimate "low probability, high impact" event. We recommended that the scientific community embrace planetary defense and endorse a permanent mission line.
Thinking Big: How Large Aperture Space Telescopes Can Aid the Search for Life in Our Lifetimes (PDF)
In this submission to the Astrophysics decadal survey, The Planetary Society discussed the capabilities needed to conduct the most scientifically compelling endeavor currently facing space science: the search for life elsewhere. It includes context for NASA's search for life beyond the Earth, including the organization's assessment of public support for this effort, and ways for the Astro2020 process to address this goal, including "going big" on large space telescopes to enable statistically-significant detections of biosignatures in the atmospheres of exoplanets.
Mars in Retrograde: A Pathway to Restoring NASA’s Mars Exploration Program (PDF)
NASA's Mars Exploration Program has systematically worked to understand the Red Planet through robotic missions of exploration. It enabled a revolution in humanity’s knowledge of Mars and methodically worked to achieve the top Mars science goal—sample return to Earth. The Planetary Society's analysis, however, found a fundamental contradiction in NASA’s extant Mars plans: there is not much of a program anymore within the Mars Exploration Program. This is a troubling path of decline—and decisions must be made now in order to stop it.
Recommendations for the Trump Administration and NASA
Presented to the Trump transition team prior to taking office in 2017, this report outlined ways in which space science and exploration could be pursued at the U.S. space agency.
Humans Orbiting Mars: A Critical Step Toward the Red Planet (PDF)
The Planetary Society held a workshop on the future of human exploration of Mars in Washington, D.C. in 2015. Nearly 80 participants from various NASA centers, the scientific community, academia, and government attended. The workshop featured the orbit-first concept of Mars exploration as proposed by a team from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Orbit-first would send astronauts near the Moon throughout the 2020s, to Mars orbit and Phobos in 2033, and finally to the surface of Mars by 2039 to begin an ongoing program of exploration.
The Planetary Exploration Budget Dataset
The cost per mission, per year, for every robotic planetary exploration effort in NASA's history.
Project Apollo Historical Cost Dataset
A rich data set tracking the costs of Project Apollo, free for public use. Includes unprecedented program-by-program cost breakdowns, facilities construction, salaries, and related programs.
How Much Did it Cost to Create the Space Shuttle?
Between 1972 and 1982, NASA spent approximately $10.6 billion to develop the space shuttle and its related facilities.
Your Guide to NASA's Budget
How big is NASA's budget right now? What was it like in the past? How does it compare to the rest of government spending? These answers, as well as charts, raw data, and original sourcing, are contained within.
Latest Articles and Analysis
Astronomy Is Cheap, Too
There was upsetting news today, as the National Science Foundation's Division of Astronomical Sciences released a report that recommended divesting from several highly successful radio telescopes. The money in question, as usual, amounts to almost nothing. The effects, however, are massive.
Curiosity and the Media: A Response
Wherein I address a particular comment on my previous post calling me out for a lazy attack on
Curiosity Comes Cheap - Why the latest Mars rover (and all planetary exploration) is a steal
Along with any NASA mission comes the inevitable repetition of its cost and questions of its worth, Curiosity is no exception. This tired media narrative must end. The real question is not,
Planetary Radio: Space Policy Edition
The Planetary Society's Chief Advocate, Casey Dreier, hosts this monthly podcast that engages the world's experts in space policy and history to share the behind-the-scenes stories of how space exploration actually happens. Available on major podcast providers, learn how to subscribe.
It’s still too early to say where the Trump Administration will take NASA, but there are a few hints. Congress is not waiting. Casey, Jason and Mat review a draft of the space agency’s authorization bill and a separate act that asks NASA to lay out its plans for humans to reach Mars.
How We Work: Space Policy & Advocacy
Space exploration doesn't just happen—it requires a vigilant and educated public to demand support for this unique program. Be one of them. We'll show you how.