AGU Space Physics & Aeronomy Section Memo: Subject: Action Needed - Future of Science at NASA

Status Report From: American Geophysical Union
Posted: Thursday, March 31, 2005

From: AGU Space Physics & Aeronomy Section
Sent: 3/30/2005 1:37 PM
Subject: Action Needed - Future of Science at NASA

Dear AGU Space Physics & Aeronomy Section members,

As you are undoubtedly aware, the US government faces many fiscal challenges for FY06, and budget cuts are expected in many federal programs. In our opinion, the situation at NASA poses one of the most formidable threats to scientific research facing our community. Not only is the money tight, but it is being reallocated dramatically within the agency in ways that might fundamentally reduce critically important scientific capabilities for the Earth and Space Sciences. We believe that protecting NASA science should be one of our community's highest priorities this year.

The upcoming confirmation hearings of Michael Griffin, President Bush's nominee to become the new NASA administrator, present a tremendous opportunity for us to raise important questions about the future of science at NASA.

We ask that all of you take a few minutes of your time (now!) to register your concerns about NASA science trends with the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee - the committee that will eventually vote to confirm Dr. Griffin. The issue is not Dr. Griffin's qualifications for the position - we believe that he is well qualified for the job - but how he will manage the agency's science programs as he attempts to implement the President's vision for human exploration. Please write your Senators (a sample letter is attached) and ask that they contact the members of the committee before the hearing. If one of your Senators is on the committee (see the members list below), please alter the sample letter to make the plea directly to that Member. Please FAX your letter to your senators. (You might also try email, but only if you are a constituent. Most congressional offices only count, but do not read emails from non-constituents.)

Senator contact information can be found at:

Thank you in advance for participating in this effort. We hope that the SPA community's activity on this issue will be clear and timely. The small effort it takes will be well worth it if we can help to foster and to protect the invaluable science that NASA provides this nation.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

With best wishes, - Michael Mendillo (President) and Nancy Crooker (President-Elect)

Space Physics & Aeronomy Section of the AGU


List of Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee members

(name, state, building address, fax)

* Ted Stevens - Alaska
522 Hart, fax: 202-224-2354
* John McCain - Arizona
241 Russell, fax: 202-228-2862
* Conrad Burns - Montana
187 Dirksen, fax: 202-224-8594
* Trent Lott - Mississippi
487 Russell, fax: 202-224-2262
* Kay Bailey Hutchison - Texas
284 Russell, fax: 202-224-0776
* Olympia Snowe - Maine
154 Russell, fax: 202-224-1946
* Gordon Smith - Oregon
404 Russell, fax: 202-228-3997
* John Ensign - Nevada
364 Russell, fax: 202-228-2193
* George Allen - Virginia
204 Russell, fax: 202-224-5432
* John Sununu - New Hampshire
111 Russell, fax: 202-228-4131
* Jim DeMint - South Carolina
340 Russell, fax: 202-228-5143
* David Vitter - Louisiana
516 Hart, fax: 202-228-5061
* Daniel K. Inouye - Hawaii
722 Hart, fax: 202-224-6747
* John D. Rockefeller - West Virginia
531 Hart, fax: 202-224-7665
* John F. Kerry - Massachussetts
304 Russell, fax: 202-224-8525
* Byron L. Dorgan - North Dakota
322 Hart, fax: 202-224-1193
* Barbara Boxer - California
112 Hart, fax: 202-224-3553
* Bill Nelson - Florida
716 Hart, fax: 202-228-2183
* Maria Cantwell - Washington
717 Hart, fax: 202-228-0514
* Frank Lautenberg - New Jersey
324 Hart, fax: 202-228-4054
* E. Benjamin Nelson - Nebraska
720 Hart, fax: 202-228-0012
* Mark Pryor - Arkansas
257 Dirksen, fax: 202-228-0908



The Honorable XXXXXX
U.S. Senate
XXXXXX Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510


Dear Senator XXXXXXX:

As one of your constituents and as a scientist on the faculty of XXXXXX/ or at such and such an organization, I ask that you become involved in a critical issue that has the potential to impede this nation's scientific progress and threaten our standing as a world leader in science and technology. Although the President's FY06 request would increase the NASA budget by 2.4%, funding from existing NASA programs for science may be taken to provide additional resources needed for the Admininstration's Moon/Mars Initiative.

A hearing will soon be held by the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee regarding the confirmation of Michael Griffin as NASA Administrator. Dr. Griffin's qualifications are not an issue, but the future of NASA as a critical contributor to scientific research is very much at stake. It is imperative that Congress make clear to Dr. Griffin that he is about to be put in charge of some of the world's most valuable scientific resources and to question him about how he plans to manage them for use by future scientists.

[now select one of the following: ] I urge you to contact your colleagues on the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee to request that the following questions be asked of Dr. Griffin during his confirmation hearing:

[or if your senator is a member of the committee (see list):] I urge you to ask the following questions of Dr. Griffin during his confirmation hearing:

[now select two or more of the following questions or write your own!]

NASA's Space Physics and Atmospheric Science programs have major societal benefits to the country, including: improved "space weather" forecasts and warnings for telecommunications disruptions, drag and radiation damage to satellites, and the health and safety of astronauts in space. How do you plan to protect NASA's Earth and Space Science programs that are of such practical value to our citizens?

In the early days of the Space Station program and continuing up until last year, separate appropriations accounts were established to make sure that Space Station budget overruns did not undermine NASA's science programs. That "firewall" has now been eliminated. Do you plan to reinstate the system of separate accounts or some other equally effective system in order to safeguard NASA science?

NASA's unmanned space science programs have provided a wealth of information about all of the planets in our solar system. This early-reconnaisance phase is now over and follow-up discovery-mode missions are needed to understand why all of these worlds are so different from the Earth. How do you plan to maintain the agency's space science programs aimed at so fundamentally important issues as how solar system bodies form and how they may host the origin of life?

The FY06 President's Request for NASA eliminates or defers indefinitely a number of missions and programs that are producing or have the potential to produce vital knowledge about Earth and space. In addition to the well-publicized case of the history-making Hubble Space Telescope, there are several existing satellite missions scheduled to be turned off. Given the investments made, how can turning off proven, still productive missions be justified?

Thank you very much for your attention to this critical issue. We all want to make sure that this country's unique scientific capabilities in space are not diminished.


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