FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, February 18, 2008 – Concerned citizens from around the country met with over 120 congressional offices early last week in an effort to ensure that the $1 billion shortfall in the proposed FY09 NASA budget is addressed by Congress. The event marks the start of the Space Exploration Alliance's 2008 Budget Campaign, a year-long push to educate Congress on space policy matters.
“One person really can have an impact on space policy, and together we can make a difference,” said SEA Steering Committee member Chris Carberry. “We've already seen results with this year's presidential election, where space policy issues have received more attention than they have in decades. Now we're hoping to be able to do the same thing with Congress.”
In addition to emphasizing the difference in funding levels between President Bush's proposed budget and the level specified in the NASA Authorization Act of 2005, last Monday and Tuesday's meetings – which covered over 120 Congressional offices – sought to raise awareness of a number of issues, such as the five-year gap currently projected between the retirement of the Space Shuttle and the first flights of the new Constellation program.
“Due to the budgetary constraints NASA has been operating under for the last several years, America is facing an extended period of time where we will have no capacity to send humans into space,” said Rick Zucker, SEA Chairman for the meetings. “NASA will have to pay the Russians for American astronauts to fly on the Soyuz during that gap, which will only get longer if funding levels stay below authorized amounts.”
As justification for increased funding, SEA members were able to point out many recent success stories from NASA, such as the continued progress of the Mars rovers and this week's International Space Station mission, which is installing the European Space Agency's Columbus module. Another promising NASA initiative highlighted was the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program, which is using performance-based contracts to help private companies in the U.S. develop the ability to send humans and cargo to the International Space Station, hopefully shrinking or closing the gap. SpaceX, the primary COTS participant to date, announced last Tuesday that it had completed its second major design review under the program (http://www.spacex.com/press.php?page=36).
Other issues discussed during the meetings included continued support for NASA's robotic science missions and the integral role that space exploration plays in solving Earth's pressing energy and environmental needs. Several Congressional offices explicitly requested more details about the National Security Space Office's recent study of space-based solar power solutions, which noted that “[a] single kilometer-wide band of geosynchronous earth orbit experiences enough solar flux in one year to nearly equal the amount of energy contained within all known recoverable conventional oil reserves on Earth today.” (http://www.nss.org/settlement/ssp/library/nsso.htm)
“This week's visit to the Hill was an excellent way to
kick off this year's political outreach efforts,” said
Carberry. “We are already planning a number of follow-ups,
including meetings with NASA headquarters and a campaign to
encourage all of our members to write their Congressional offices
in support of the NASA budget.”
The Space Exploration Alliance is an unprecedented partnership
of the nation’s premier non-profit space organizations, with
a combined membership of more than 700,000 people throughout the
United States and a goal of communicating to the American public
and elected officials that NASA's bold and substantial mandate for
human and robotic exploration of the solar system is a compelling
national priority that is technically and fiscally achievable, will
inspire the nation’s youth and the public, reinvigorate the
traditional aerospace workforce and industrial base, and foster
job-creating entrepreneurial activity across the entire