Congressmen for full NASA funding

The California Space Authority has posted a letter signed by 67 members of Congress who support “full funding” of NASA. (Warning: the file is over 8 MB in size.) The letter is addressed to Reps. Frank Wolf (R-VA) and Alan Mollohan (D-WV), the chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the House Appropriations Committee’s subcommittee with NASA oversight. In the letter, the members “express our strong support for NASA’s Fiscal Year 2006 requested funding level of $16.456 billion.” The letter goes on to state that NASA has served as an “engine of innovation” for the US economy and is key to “the long-term interests of our nation.” The signers of the letter include a broad mix of Republicans and Democrats, including Tom DeLay, Ken Calvert, Mark Udall, and Dana Rohrabacher. Two notable omissions: Sherwood Boehlert and Bart Gordon, the chairman and ranking member of the House Science Committee.

12 comments to Congressmen for full NASA funding

  • This bipartisan letter has a familiar Washington style: Applaud an opera, then fund a clown show. The letter is partly correct when it credits NASA for America’s superiority in space technology, space science, and aeronautics. If those are the real goals, then NASA should fund research in technology, science, and aeronautics. It should not cut research to pay for human spaceflight.

  • Here, I disagree with you Greg.

    If money were infinite, I would oppose any cuts to any of NASA’s activities. But, the real future — both for the nation and for humanity — lies in the establishment of Solar System trade as early as possible. For that to happen, early bases need to be established, a la the San Francisco Presidio or Fort Ross out here in the west. If NASA is going to do that, they _must_ focus their activities. Plenty of new technology will be developed in the process of establishing lunar and Mars outposts, just as with Apollo.

    Aeronautics should not be part of NASA. Sure, we could build a better airplane and complete a bit better with the Europeans, but the real markets of the future are not in a marginally better 747. Let the Europeans waste their money on that, while we develop suborbital and orbital tourism and find out what there is to mine on the moon and nearby asteroids.

    Speaking of the Europeans, one of the first headlines in today’s Space Daily E-mail is that EADS has decided to cancel the heavy lift Ariane-V project, because they see no market. For whatever reason, they must not be taking VSE seriously.

    — Donald

  • If the goal is solar system trade, they should have praised solar system trade. Why are they asking for a NASA plan that cuts what they praised?

  • But, are those things truly cut? I believe that stablishing a base on the moon and one on Mars will achieve far more space science and demonstrate more space technology than anything else we can do. Recall that to this date relative crater-count ages throughout the Solar System are related to absolute crater ages obtained during Apollo, something no amount of automated “science” has been able to duplicate. Supporting bases that can achieve real, human science, rather than just automated reconnaissance, will require operational and theoretical advances in high-speed aerodynamics. I see things re-focussed, and specific projects cut in favor of others, not necessarily a reversal of goals. These goals will probably be achieved far faster by going to Mars than they will be unfocused efforts directed all over the map.

    Put it another way, what does more for astronomy? Maintaining Hubble and the automated “space science” endeavors of today, or placing human laboratories to get detailed absolute compositions, stratigraphies, and ages for many different terrains on Earth’s moon, nearby asteroids, and Mars and its moons? The science would be different and you could make a strong case for either one. My point is that the answer is not automatically the former.

    — Donald


    I recall a quote, possibly from an Academy of Sciences report or possibly the Aldridge report, stating in effect that a field geologist could accomplish as much science in a few days as the Rovers have on Mars in months. I cannot find that in an Internet search.

    Does anyone else recall that quote? If so, do you have the exact quote and where it came from.


    — Donald

  • John Malkin

    I know Steve has said in a couple of different press conferences and more so since VSE. I think some other have echoed it but this is the best I can do in print.

    Steven Squyres

    But fans of human space travel can take comfort in one team member’s observation that it will take each rover about three months to do what a human geologist could do in a weekend.

  • I believe Sean O’Keth said it at the press conference where they difinitively found evidence of a large body of whater.

  • Certainly the aeronautics is “truly” being cut. That’s what Griffin was just telling people at the NASA research centers.

    And so is the science and technology, unless you think that the moon and Mars are the two most interesting stellar bodies in the universe, with the Earth in third place. Most scientists and most technologists think that the Earth is more interesting than the moon or Mars, and that things farther away than Mars are also interesting.

  • Thanks everyone for their replies to my question. I’ve done a little more research myself, too. Apparently, the quote ultimately came from the Athena payload PI.

    Greg: Sure, I think they are all interesting, but we aren’t going to Alpha Centauri any time soon, so it is inherently less interesting to me that Earth’s moon and Mars, where we are going soon (maybe). In a world of limited budgets, you have to prioritize. I strongly believe that the highest priorities, right now, should be the places that we can establish bases and get trade started soon, even if that means everything else has to go. Once we are out there, there will be plenty of science and technology just from being there. But, if we spread ourselves too thin studying Alpha Centauri where nobody is going soon, then we will never go anywhere.

    If your a Spaniard looking for the new world, do you build a really big telescope on your home turf and watch the coastal islands from a distance? Or, do you build ships and go explore those islands and then venture outside the Medeterranian and find the new world? If you can afford to do both, you probably do, but sending ships ultimately gets you a lot more bang for your buck.

    If you have to choose, choose the ships.

    — Donald

  • It sounds like your plan is to colonize Mars and abandon Earth.

  • Greg:
    [sarcasm] Yeah because NASA is the only place we spend money on the Earth. Wait, the EPA, National Parks System, USGS, NSF, and DOE. But those don’t amount to NASA’s budget, right?

  • NASA is the premier research institution for both space-based Earth observation and non-proprietary aeronautics. Those were two of the main things that the Congressional letter praised about NASA. And again, the letter endorsed a budget plan that cuts what they praised.

    If you think that scouting the moon and Mars is a better use of spacecraft than observing the Earth itself, then that’s fine as your preference, but it’s not what the letter said.