A member of the House normally not involved in space issues is asking her colleagues in the Senate to provide additional support for NASA’s Mars exploration program. In an op-ed published in the Pasadena Sun late Friday, Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA) describes the importance of the Mars exploration research done at JPL in particular, but raises concerns about the budget for that, citing the most recent proposed cuts in the program in the administration’s FY13 budget proposal. Those cuts, she notes, could lead to layoffs at JPL.
Since the House has already passed its appropriations bill “that substantially increased funding” for Mars exploration, she calls on the Senate to do even more, although she doesn’t quantify how much additional funding it should add to the bill. She instead argues that “the two chambers of Congress must come together so we don’t undercut future advances” in Mars exploration. “Senators have proposed funding for JPL, but they need to provide even more,” she writes.
While Chu doesn’t speak much on space issues, there is some local interest at play here. Her current district, the 32nd, covers much of the eastern part of the San Gabriel Valley, east of Pasadena. However, after redistricting, she is running this year in the reconfigured 27th district, which now includes most of Pasadena (although it’s not clear from the resolution of the available maps if JPL itself is just inside or outside the district.)
Also yesterday, the Houston Chronicle’s Eric Berger published a clarification on the “60 Minutes” piece on SpaceX provided by its host, Scott Pelley. The clarification specifically addressed the perception in the piece that Neil Armstrong “had testified against commercial space flight”, to use the Pelley’s words Pelley in a question to SpaceX founder Elon Musk. “We should have made it explicit in our story that, while Armstrong was ‘not confident’ that the newcomers could achieve safety and cost goals in the near term, he did want to ‘encourage’ them,” Pelley writes (emphasis in original), citing Armstrong’s prepared testimony before the Senate Commerce Committee in May 2010.
This letter was prompted by reaction to the re-airing of the “60 Minutes” segment earlier this month by Chris Kraft, who argued that the segment distorted the views of Armstrong, Gene Cernan, and others. As I earlier noted, this criticism came only after the second airing of the piece, in the wake of SpaceX’s successful test flight to the ISS. The original airing, back in March, included those same views, but Kraft and others didn’t appear to claim then that their views had been mischaracterized—or, at least, they weren’t able to get the media’s attention back in March.