Adding to a busy week, the Senate Commerce Committee is holding a hearing Wednesday afternoon titled “The Path from LEO to Mars”. The hearing will start with an update on NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover, followed by a second panel of witnesses to discuss NASA’s “exploration portfolio” from low Earth orbit to Mars.
The Planetary Society is hoping to get a big public turnout for this hearing. On Monday they sent emails to members of the organization in the DC area (as well as a blog post), informing them about the hearing and encouraging them to attend. “These are the Senators who help determine funding within NASA,” the Society notes (although the overlap between members of the Commerce and Appropriations committees is limited, with Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) the best example.) “The more public interest they perceive, the more likely they are to support these potentially game-changing missions to Mars and beyond.”
The real question, though, will be how many committee members show up: even though this is a full committee hearing, odds are most members will skip it because of other hearings, floor action, or other events off the Hill, as has traditionally been the case with space-related hearings by the Commerce committee. Unless, of course, getting an update on the activities of NASA’s latest Mars rover piques their, well, curiosity.