The space advocacy organization The Planetary Society has been pushing for months to try and undo the proposed cuts in NASA’s planetary science program in the 2013 budget proposal the administration released earlier this year. While the results of those efforts are yet to be determined—Congress has yet to pass a final 2013 appropriations bill for NASA or other agencies, as it debates big-picture concerns like sequestration—the organization is already laying the groundwork for the fight for the following year’s budget.
In a call to action earlier this week, The Planetary Society called upon its members and others to write to President Obama and ask him to restore funding in the fiscal year 2014 budget proposal currently under development. “I respectfully urge you to direct your budget planners to rebalance and restore NASA’s planetary allocation to the FY12 level, $1.5B for each of the next five years so that NASA can move forward with the visionary priorities recommended by the National Academy,” the sample text of the letter provided by the organization reads, referring at the end to the decadal survey of planetary science missions released by the National Research Council last year.
There is, though, a wild card in this advocacy effort: what if President Obama loses in November? The 2014 budget proposal will then be released by the new Romney Administration. The Planetary Society admits that this is a “tricky” issue, bud argues that it’s unlikely a new administration would scrap the work done to date by the Office of Management and Budget on the 2014 proposal. (The proposal would almost certainly be delayed for a few months, though, to allow the new administration to reshape it; in 2009 the FY2010 budget proposal didn’t come out until early May.) As has been the case on most other aspects of space policy, the Romney campaign has not offered specifics on how it would approach, or fund, planetary science missions; the space policy white paper the campaign released last month, though, was critical of “international opportunities to cooperate in robotic explorations of Mars [that] have been squandered” by the Obama Administration, a reference to the administration’s decision to withdraw from the ExoMars program with Europe.