Investing in Our Journey to Mars

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Tomorrow, the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations will take up NASA’s budget for the next fiscal year.  The President’s priorities for NASA – including our goal and timeline for sending American astronauts to Mars in the 2030s – traditionally have enjoyed strong bipartisan support, which is a testament to the hard work and progress of NASA’s dedicated employees and contractors.

Unfortunately, this work is in jeopardy of being halted, delayed or possibly undone by the Budget Bill as currently written.  This could cost our country jobs and opportunity as well as progress on some of the defining issues of our time, including returning human spaceflight launches to America, our Journey to Mars, and our ability to understand and respond to things like earthquakes, storm events, and climate change.

Technology drives all of our exploration and it also creates jobs, strengthening the American economy and producing “spill-over effects” (like those we’re seeing in Nepal, as NASA technologies are being used to save lives and strategically deploy resources).   The bill being considered would take funding from this type of critical technology development.

For example, it would upend the investments we need to execute contracts with Boeing and SpaceX to return the launches of American astronauts to American soil and to do it by 2017.  Instead, it would force us to continue our sole reliance on Russia.  In other words, it would guarantee we will continue to send millions of dollars a year to Moscow instead of investing that money in United States, creating jobs and once again launching Americans from U.S. soil.

This at a time when a new consensus is emerging around NASA’s goal, timetable, and plan for sending American astronauts to Mars in the 2030s.  Make no mistake: This plan is clear. This plan is affordable, and this plan is sustainable.

Meanwhile, NASA has an amazing fleet of Earth observation satellites, many in partnership with other nations, and they help us predict and respond to disaster as well as understand climate change and many other aspects of our living planet’s processes. Yet, the House proposal would seriously reduce our Earth science program and threaten to set back generations worth of progress in better understanding our changing climate, and our ability to prepare for and respond to earthquakes, droughts, and storm events.

With the incredible progress we’ve been making – from Earth Science to Orion to the Space Launch System to the work being done on the International Space Station – now is not the time to hit the rewind button or to press pause.  It’s time to fast forward into greater prosperity and job creation as America expands humanity’s reach into space, while strengthening our leadership here on Earth.

To read the entire Office of Management and Budget letter on the FY 2016 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill, visit:

https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/legislative/letters/cjs-full-committee-appropriations-letter-hal-rogers.pdf