July 29, 2004
Disappointed by NASA Budget Cut
The following letter was sent to Representative Bill Young of the House Appropriations COmmittee on July 29, 2004. Reprinted with permission of the authors.
Dear Chairman Young:
My wife and I are dedicated, longtime members of both the National Space and Planetary Societies. Our names, along with the signatures of over 600,000 space enthusiasts are, courtesy of the Planetary Society, inscribed on a specially designed plaque aboard the Cassini spacecraft now orbiting Saturn. Needless to say, we were extremely disappointed the House Appropriations Subcommittee recently voted to recommend NASA’s annual budget be cut by a whopping 7% (over $1 billion) from the amount required to adequately fund President Bush’s visionary space initiative proposal and they did it right on the 35th Anniversary (July 20th) of America’s greatest and most spectacular scientific achievement of the century (America’s first astronauts on the moon)! While your Appropriations Subcommittee was busy cutting NASA’s funding, Apollo 11 Astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins were attending a rare reunion right there in Washington, DC to help celebrate one of America’s proudest moments in its glorious history.
We, along with several fellow National Space Society members and numerous other space enthusiasts, recently attended the two days of very informative public hearings held by the Moon, Mars & Beyond Presidential Commission in New York City. This was the fifth and final public hearing held by the Commission at various locations throughout the country. Among the distinguished guest speakers invited to testify before the Commission was recently appointed National Space Society Executive Director George Whitesides, Planetary Society Executive Director Dr. Louis Friedman and NASA Administrator Sean O’Keefe. One of the interested spectators attending both days of these critically important public hearings was none other than Apollo 11 Astronaut Buzz Aldrin, an avid space activist. Given the fact your Subcommittee, for some unknown reason, sadly chose the 35th Anniversary of the historic Apollo 11 moon landing to announce its proposed devastating cuts in NASA’s annual budget, perhaps they might want to personally explain to Buzz Aldrin and the rest of the Apollo Astronauts why they took this extremely ill advised action. Historically, NASA’s annual budget has represented less than 1% of the entire federal budget during the last couple of decades and is currently at its low point.
Since the final Apollo 17 mission back in December 1972, no human has traveled beyond low Earth orbit. In at least some respects, it would certainly seem as if our manned space exploration program has actually gone backwards over the last three decades. The President’s bold space initiative proposal calls for the aging space shuttle orbiter fleet to be retired by about 2010, after the International Space Station is fully assembled, and replaced with a newly designed state-of-the-art Crew Exploration Vehicle. This visionary plan is specifically designed to finally break our manned space exploration program out of low Earth orbit and back to the moon and then eventually on to Mars over the next couple of decades at a sensible, reasonable cost that will be affordable to all Americans.
We’ve also written to House Science Committee Chairman, Sherwood Boehlert regarding this matter and hope to receive a reply from his office within the next couple of weeks or so. Over the next few weeks, my wife and I will be writing similar letters to every member on the Appropriations Subcommittee expressing our thoughts and feelings concerning the future of America’s manned space exploration program.
In conclusion, we would like to strongly suggest every member of the Subcommittee take the time to carefully read the Moon, Mars & Beyond Presidential Commission’s comprehensive final report and its extremely thoughtful analysis and recommendations on the best and most efficient methods to reorganize NASA in order to meet the various challenges and goals of the President’s bold space initiative. Perhaps some of the Subcommittee’s key members could briefly meet with a few of the Commissioners (personally we would choose astrophysicist and Hayden Planetarium Director, Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson, who in 2002 also served on the President’s Future of the U.S. Aerospace Industry Commission, because we’ve often heard him speak so very clearly and eloquently about a wide range of subjects over the years) in order to better understand the thinking that went into the Commission’s various recommendations and help clarify any particular aspects of the Commission’s final report.
We would greatly appreciate if your office could please advise us if the Appropriations Subcommittee has received other letters similar to ours regarding this issue and, if so, approximately how many. We’ll look forward to your response on behalf of the House Appropriations Subcommittee at its earliest convenience.
Ad Astra (“To The Stars”) always,
Eugene & Frances Cervone
Posted by apsmith at July 29, 2004 05:06 PM