Friday, April 26, 2013

My letter to Congress in support of funding space exploration.

Dear Senator or Representative,

I strongly oppose the proposed cuts in NASA's budget. I would ideally like to see NASA's funding stay at or above 1% of the total US budget in order to properly fund the more daring and exciting human exploration missions, but I will not accept any cuts to the already low level of funding for planetary science.

My argument is simple:

Recall the landing of the Curiosity Rover on Mars and the enormous amount of public interest that was generated and is maintained as more discoveries pour in. I can't recall a more exhilarating event than that moment (I'm far too young to have experienced the amazing Apollo program) when the descent program worked flawlessly and deposited a metric ton of nuclear-powered, mobile geology lab on the surface of another planet, and a good deal of that excitement comes from the knowledge that this impressive mission is partially my own. My tax dollars were spent on something bold and adventurous, yet peaceful and innocent, probing a distant world for answers to questions that could not be more important to all of us. There is no more noble endeavor than exploration, no more virtuous characteristic of a society than curiosity, and I am proud to support these ideals with the few dollars I have to spare.

The achievements of the planetary science section of NASA are incredible, but they are merely the first drops of an ocean of discovery that awaits us within our solar system. Did you know that we (the human race, not just NASA) have sent only one mission to Uranus and Neptune? Every picture you've seen of the blue and green ice giants and their moons came from a single spacecraft whizzing by in a matter of days using technology developed in the 1960's. Imagine what we could learn with a mission that stayed for years with modern equipment! As interesting a place to look for signs of long-extinct life Mars is, there are potentially entire oceans of life beneath the crusts of moons like Ganymede, Europa, Enceladus, and perhaps even Triton. To paraphrase Neil deGrasse Tyson: I want to drill down to the oceans beneath Europa's crust, stick a camera in, and see if anything licks the lens.

If this sounds more science fiction than science fact to you, please know that I have met countless exceedingly bright scientists and engineers, and I have heard them speak and read their plans at length for entirely feasible missions to accomplish all of these goals. We don't need any miracles to make these dreams come true, we need only the resources - we'll supply the hard work and the intelligence - and along the way we'll discover new technologies with applications back here on Earth. There are those that say that the government can't do anything right, and there may be some departments where that holds, but NASA is not one of them. Given the freedom to follow where the science and engineering lead, the people at this agency can accomplish anything. They have proven it again and again, and they should be rewarded and trusted for it.

Our nation is hungry for the thrill of an open frontier, and here we have dozens of worlds just waiting to be explored. Please support NASA, specifically the planetary and human exploration sectors, and give this generation a chance to be a part of a path of discovery that will literally lead us to a whole new world.

Dustin Summy