GovBytes: Students Fundraise amidst NASA Budget Cuts

In college, the Political Science Club I was Treasurer of once held a fundraiser to take a trip to Washington, DC, raising a total $11.64. Raising a ton of money wasn’t the point, though. The point was simply to show that we care about
visiting DC, and that the Student Association should allot us a little money to go on our trip. That’s exactly what students at 9 universities are doing as they plan to fundraise in support of NASA’s planetary exploration program.

The Obama Administrations fiscal year 2013 budget request cuts approximately $300 million from the program, leaving it with a slashed budget of $1.2 trillion. This cut, students worry, can hinder their chances of employment at NASA upon graduation, and will cut important aspects of the exploration program. The Division for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society released a statement about the cuts:

“These cuts will force NASA to cancel its plans for its most ambitious exploration missions, cancel collaborations with the European Space Agency (ESA) on the 2016 Mars Trace Gas Orbiter and the 2018 ExoMars rover, slash the Mars Exploration Program, cancel the Lunar Quest Program, delay the very successful Discovery and New Frontiers competitive programs, and force cuts in mission operations and data analysis for several current missions, reducing the science return on an investment already made by the taxpayers,”

NASA Budget Cuts Targeted by Universities

Students at the universities have no delusion that their contributions will make up the $300 million shortfall from previous years budgets; they simply hope to send a message to show their congressmen that NASA matters to them.

Are the budget cuts for the planetary exploration program too harsh? Luckily for my club and I, we succeeded in getting extra funding from the Student Association, do you think these students will succeed in sending a message to Congress?

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William Lim

I think it will take a concerted effort by students, as well as interested aerospace industry lobbyists, members of Congress with some science background (Rush Holt, for one), members of Congress representing districts with lots of NASA or NASA-contracted facilities, and public intellectuals (Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Michio Kaku, Stephen Hawking, Brian Cox, maybe even Mike Rowe). I think students and intellectuals can make the PR case for why space science is worth supporting, but I think it’ll be up to the aerospace lobbyists to make the economic case that NASA cuts will increase the science gap between the US and other countries. Ultimately I think it’ll be up to the few scientists in Congress to show leadership in restoring funding, since today it’s NASA but tomorrow it could very well be the NIH, USGS, NOAA, or the NSF.

Chris Cairns

@William. Good point on the need to prove that the cuts exacerbate the science gap between the US and other countries. In some cases, I think we should embrace contraints as doing so can lead to breakthrough innovations (“doing more with less”).

Corey McCarren

I’d also like to note that countries like the UK and South Korea are investing very heavily in science and emerging tech such as graphene, so the gap is there and it is widening. There’s definitely still innovation in the US coming from the private sector, though, so that’s great.

Laith Mahmood Muhammad

Iraq is a country very rich, has many the natural resources, many unexcavated by the underground, if the United States to expand the horizons of exploration deep space with this country, I believe will be agreed strongly about his participation in space exploration and investment projects funded massive and all this in the public interest and also the service of humanity.