L5 News: L-5 Phone Tree Helps Save Space Telescope and Galileo Project

by David Brandt-Erichsen and Mark Hopkins

From L5 News, December 1980

Last August the nation-wide L-5 Society telephone tree was activated in response to a threatened $300 million cut in NASA’s budget by the Senate Budget Committee. The cut would have severely gutted the Space Telescope and Galileo Jupiter missions.

Science Applications, Inc., which has several contracts involving both of these projects, first alerted the L-5 Society to the problem by calling former L-5 President Carolyn Henson and asking for help. Gerry Driggers, Rebecca Wright (of Leigh Ratiner’s office in Washington), and Mark Hopkins verified the threat and decided on a strategy of sending telegrams to the Committee Chairman, Senator Ernest F. Hollings of South Carolina. There was no time for either letters or phone calls to the Senator.

On Thursday, August 14, the L-5 phone tree was activated to ask members to send telegrams over the weekend in support of the Space Telescope and Galileo projects. The membership responded, both with their own telegrams and by contacting other groups. David Baxter of the Utah Space Association contacted the local AIAA Chapter, the Salt Lake Astronomical Society, and the public service directorof KLO Radio in Ogden, Utah, who in turn said he would urge support from every ABC affiliate station in each committee senator’s state. Michael Leonard and Rob Vamosi of Great Plains L-5 contacted the Omaha Astronomical Society, the Prairie Astronomy Club, and the International Planetarium Society. Similar events occurred around the country, and it is impossible to acknowledge everyone. A special thanks, however, is in order for the phone tree Regional Coordinators: Ron Nickel, Bill Rudow, Paul Werbos, Gregg Maryniak, Michael Leonard, and Marcia Allen-Mabry.

The net result of all this effort was a reported 500 telegrams waiting for a very surprised Senator Hollings on Monday morning. NASA’s budget was not cut.

Only a phone tree can respond this fast to let public officials know that a strong constituency exists that supports space. Members interested in leadership positions in the phone tree are urged to contact David Brandt-Erichsen at [————]. The phone tree also requires funds for its operation. A form for donations is provided below.