Back in December I noted the space advocacy community’s continued, if perhaps misguided, fascination with White House petitions. Petitions have been the tool of first resort—and sometimes the tool of only resort—to demand funding increases for NASA or other policy changes. The problem is that they often fail to reach the necessarily threshold (recently increased to 100,000 signatures) for an administration response, and even when they have, the response has been more a reiteration of current policy than a willingness to change.
That hasn’t stopped people from continuing to use this tool. In response to NASA’s decision last Friday to temporarily suspend most educational and public outreach efforts because of sequestration, advocates started a petition demanding that the suspension be overturned. “The Sequester’s recent cuts on NASA’s spending in public outreach and its STEM programs must not be allowed,” it states. As of early Thursday morning, the petition had garnered almost 6,000 signatures, with three and a half weeks to go. Although that’s a sizable amount, unless the petition becomes more popular it will fall well short of the 100,000-signature threshold.
The danger posed by near Earth objects is the subject of another petition. “Find the asteroids, before they find us,” demands this petition, without going into more details. (Find all the asteroids, or just those above a certain size threshold? And by when?) The petition started Sunday and, as of Thursday morning, had received 11 signatures.
Petitions like these don’t hurt, but they don’t alone help much, either, based on past experience. If you feel strongly enough about these issues to sign one of these petitions, make sure it’s not the only advoacy activity you undertake.