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DPS Mailing #03-12: New Horizons Threatened

Status Report From: American Astronomical Society
Posted: Monday, July 28, 2003

DPS colleagues - please take note of this important message!

ACTION NEEDED: NEW FRONTIERS PROGRAM

One of the major components for implementing the Decadal Survey recommendations is in peril by Congressional budget cutters. Late last week, the House VA-HUD- Independent Agency Appropriations Subcommittee released budget language to cut $55M from the New Frontiers program. Such a cut will seriously delay the launch and science return of the first New Frontiers Mission: New Horizons Mission to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt. Recall that the New Frontiers mission line, starting with Kuiper Belt/Pluto was a top priority recommendation by the Decadal Survey. Delays and inadequate funding of the New Frontiers line will delay the launch and science return for New Horizons and increase the overall cost. The net effect on the New Frontiers line is to delay competition, selection and flight among other top priority missions that include South Pole-Aitken Basin, Jupiter Polar Orbiter, Venus In-Situ Explorer, Comet Surface Sample Return. New Frontiers was fully funded in FY2003 and the President's budget proposes full funding for FY2004. It makes no sense to have a flight program undergo severe swings from year to year.

Even though letters from the DPS Chair and The Planetary Society were FAXed to key House members on Thursday (7/24), the House took quick action on Friday (7/25) to pass the bill containing the cut to the New Frontiers line. Unfortunately, this was the expected outcome. The effective battle ground for restoring cuts to the NASA budget will be in the Senate, with the first actions taking shape in the Senate Appropriations Committee.

WHAT TO DO: It is vitally important NOW that we show Planetary Science has a strong constituency - and the place to be heard is within the offices of your Senators AND the Senate Appropriations Committee. YOU ARE URGED TO FAX THIS WEEK a letter to your Senators and to members of the Senate Appropriations Committee. A SAMPLE LETTER is given below.

Also note that the James Webb Space Telescope faces a similar $20M cut. You may choose to additionally mention this in your letter.

CONTACT INFORMATION for your own Congressional representatives can be found through the AAS website: http://www.aas.org/policy/Contact.html

CONTACT INFORMATION for the Senate Committee on Appropriations can be found at: http://www.sal.wisc.edu/~wharris/frs/frsframe.htm

Thank you for your efforts, which are urgently needed if we are to keep moving forward in turning the Decadal Survey recommendations into reality.

Richard Binzel, Chair
on behalf of the Committee

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Melissa McGrath, DPS Secretary-Treasurer
submissions to: mcgrath@stsci.edu

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