Focusing on a $300 million NASA budget cut for planetary exploration, some American astro-brains will hold bake sales and car washes Saturday to raise a little political capital.
(Image Credit: AFP/File, Stan Honda)
“Organizers say about 20 fund- and attention-raising events are planned nationwide.”
“‘We’re not asking for more of the pie, we’re asking for less of a bite out of the pie,’ said Laura Seward, a graduate student at the University of Central Florida in Orlando and organizer of the Planetary Exploration Car Wash and Bake Sale. ‘A strong robotic planetary exploration program is essential for a strong human planetary exploration program.’”
“Among the cuts in his February budget, President Obama canceled joint U.S.-European robotic missions to Mars in 2016 and 2018, forcing NASA scientists to figure out how to still reach the Red Planet in 2018, when it makes its closest approach to Earth in 15 years.”
“‘It’s important these cuts be repaired to maintain U.S. leadership in this area of science, to prevent mission cuts, and to prevent student and research job losses,’ said Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo., which is sponsoring the day’s events.
“Astronomer Jill Tarter of the Center for SETI Research said the the nation ‘risks the loss of a generation of upcoming, talented engineers and researchers whose careers are centered on the exploration of our solar system in the quest for life beyond Earth.’”
(Blogger’s editorial note: The level of tone deafness involved in this event is stunning. The planetary science community, like the astronomy community, is quickly going to have to learn how to do as much as it can with significantly less federal funding. While standing up publicly for their craft is admirable, it comes across as a stunt, one that seems designed to merely forestall the inevitable. In an era of dwindling budgets, branches of science without obvious angles for commercial exploitation are slow-moving targets for bureaucrats, and American planetary science swims against this rising tide at its own peril. -JCB)
Astronomy news, recent research results, and pretty pictures from the media along with context, commentary, and explanations for folks who dig this sort of thing. Written by a quasi-professional astronomer affiliated with the University of Texas at Austin.