Dear AGU Planetary Science Section members,
In the last year we have witnessed continued success in planetary exploration. The spectacular flyby of Pluto by New Horizons in July caps a year of successes (Dawn at Ceres, Rosetta/Philae at comet 67P, the completion of the MESSENGER mission at Mercury, MSL's continued traverse of discovery on Mars, etc.). In addition, the future is potentially bright, with the White House and House of Representatives FY16 budget requests including a new start for a mission to Europa, an effort long fought for by members of our community (the Senate, currently in recess, has not yet provided a formal request). At the same time, the details bear some scrutiny.
Although the PS section is appreciative of the White House request, the overall budget for planetary science goes down, and the House NASA proposal comes at the expense of Earth science funding that we, as a Section, believe is important for a balanced program. So, while the current situation has some positive elements, we must work as a community to ensure that NASA planetary funding is stable overall (at $1.5B+), while also supporting new starts like Europa. We urge concerned members to write to their congressional representatives to advocate for NASA planetary science (note that civil servants, and possibly employees of other organizations, can only engage Congress as private citizens off hours; please check the rules where you work).
The PS section also recommends a visit to websites of the Division for Planetary Sciences of the AAS or The Planetary Society. These sites provide more details about the issues, letter templates that you can customize, as well as links that can easily connect you to your representatives in Congress and the President (if you live outside the U.S.).
The time to act is now — before the Fall Meeting — while the FY2016 budget is being debated.
Lindy Elkins-Tanton, AGU PS President
Sarah Stewart, AGU PS President-elect
Nathan Bridges, AGU PS Advocacy Representative