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NSS Letters on Space Exploration

Letters from NSS members on space exploration to newspapers, congress, and others
To have your letter or press release added, please contact Arthur Smith (apsmith @ aps.org) or Marianne Dyson (mjdyson @ swbell.net).

Let's Support Space Program

NSS Member Joseph Russo had the following letter published in the August 7, 2004 Long Island issue of Newsday. Reprinted with permission of the author.

Let's support space program

As a teacher of a highschool course on the space program, I greatly appreciate Newsday's regular coverage of space news, especially the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft ["Visiting Saturn," News, June 30] and the 35th anniversary of Apollo 11 ["Fly me to the moon," News, July 20]. This coverage makes Newsday stand out. We are the only nation that has an independent space effort, and we should support the president's plan for NASA's future.

Joseph F. Russo
Valley Stream

NASA Needs Funding

NSS Member Jason Rhian had the following letter printed in the August 2, 2004 Tampa Tribune. Reprinted with permission of the author.

NASA Needs Funding.

The July 25th editorial cartoon in the Commentary section, about the only thing NASA Couldn't do was send a man to the Moon again - was a glaring example of the smug ignorance rampant in the media.

The problem isn't that NASA is incapable of sending men to the Moon again; it's that Americans no longer have the imagination to back NASA.

To do incredible things requires support; something the public has denied NASA. Its budget is cut every year, but God help them if there is an accident! Then they're incompetent! This is the logic of the person who drew that cartoon.

During the Apollo years, NASA had the backing and funding required to accomplish the unimaginable. Now, with the loss of Columbia, a bold initiative is starved for support, and Congress is trying to cut the budget again- on the 25th anniversary of the first Moon landing, no less!

Jason Rhian

Support for the Vision for Space Exploration

NSS Member Ryan Caron sent the following letter to his congressman on July 30, 2004. Reprinted by permission of the author.

Dear Congressman Charles Bass,

I am writing to voice my support for the President's Vision for Space Exploration. The loss of Columbia and her crew bring unprecedented scrutiny to NASA and the purpose of America's manned space program. For over thirty years our manned space program has wandered aimlessly with little or no direction. Now we finally have a President that has given us a mission, one of exploration and one that America can be proud of. Revisiting the Moon and living on Mars will rival the tales of Apollo and inspire the next generation of explorers in much the same way Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin did in July 1969.

Recent appropriations reduced NASA's budget from the requested $16.2 billion to $15.1 billion, $200 million less than the current year's budget. Such an outrageous difference between requested and allotted funding will certainly jeopardize the new Vision. If we don't ensure that this new Vision gets the Congressional support it needs and deserves, we could remain stuck in Earth's orbit again for another thirty years, and not explore the Moon and Mars within our lifetimes. We have an opportunity to revolutionize what we do in space, and we must take advantage of it while we can.

I am a student working towards an aerospace engineering degree and am an avid space enthusiast. If this Vision gets Congressional approval, in a few years I will be privileged enough to enter the workforce during a very exciting and challenging time. I hope you share my enthusiasm and support for this new initiative.

Ryan Caron

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

A New Space Age

NSS Member Jason Rhian won the "Letter of the Day" for June 29, 2004 in the Tampa Tribune. Reprinted with permission of the author.

A New Space Age
Published: Jun 29, 2004

SpaceShipOne's recent flight might begin a second space age. After the moon shots we lost interest in space. The only reason we went to the moon was because of the Soviet threat. I wonder what would have happened if we weren't so fickle, so saturated with apathy. Some say robots should do spaceflight. Some say, ``We should deal with problems on Earth first.''By that logic, we'll never go. As long as there are people, we'll have war, hunger and disease. We're a society shackled to the couch, too timid for risks. Our heroes aren't those who do great deeds; they're trashy celebrities mired in scandal. Will we ever pull free of mediocrity and dream again? SpaceShipOne will, I hope, start private spaceflights. Maybe then our dreams will be reborn.

If the president's new space plan is approved, I hope it will include plans to tap the limitless resources found in space because, apparently, inspiring kids to reach for the stars isn't enough. We need economic reasons now to go. Today's heroes aren't named Glenn, Armstrong or McAuliffe. No, they're Eminem, 50 Cent and Snoop Dogg.


Space: what does it do for you?
The following letter from NSS member Arthur Smith was published in "Suffolk Life" February 25, 2004. Reprinted with permission of the author.

Space: what does it do for you?

To the Editor, Suffolk Life

Brent Marcovecchio and Christine Suarez (Point of View "Let's Deal With Problems on Earth" and letter, Feb 18, 2004) have a point: a lot of the money that goes to NASA is not spent wisely. NASA has for years been treated primarily as a jobs program for engineers and aerospace contractors in selected congressional districts. Yes, there are spectacular images to show for it all, but what does it do for you?

Space has enormous untapped potential to benefit average people, much as the Americas did 500 years ago. Do we need new renewable energy sources? Solar energy trillions of times what we use now streams past us through empty space every day. Learning to live in small enclosed environments, such as the proposed base on the Moon, could have enormous impact on recycling and resource conservation here on Earth. New innovative companies developing reliable reusable spacecraft promise a new era of space tourism as accessible as travel on any cruise ship.

It's the 21st century in a big universe; we need to spend just a little of our effort on better figuring out our place in it.

Arthur Smith
President, Long Island Space Society

Space program benefits humankind

NSS Director J. David Baxter had the following feature article published in the Salt Lake City Desert Morning News on February 20, 2004. Reprinted with permission of the author.

Space program benefits humankind - By J. David Baxter
Advancing the space program benefits mankind in several ways.

There are benefits to national defense. The Moon, Mars and asteroids represent the new military high ground of space. Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld Rumsfield led the President's task force that determined American astronauts must be sent to this high ground of space. China and the European Union, have plans to establish their presence there. The United States needs to be able to defend its orbital assets. Earth has had some close calls with asteroids. Nuclear devices can be used to aim them at the United States. Without action in the future, a nation, hostile toward the United States and its allies, could gain the leadership.

There are spiritual benefits. When we do space exploration, we are studying the creator's handiwork. On the Apollo 15 Moon Mission, Astronaut Jim Irwin stated that he could feel the influence of God there. Ancient Man recognized the hand of the creator in the regular motions of the Moon and Planets. The telescope brought out these wonders in greater detail. Unmanned space probes revealed even greater glory. Watching astronauts walk on the Moon, brought us closer to the experience.

Future advancements in space transportation will make it possible for average citizens to tour the solar system. Being inspired by the wonders of God's creations, is worth infinitely more than the money spent to explore it.

We also need a Final Frontier. When Queen Elizabeth, of England, pledged her country's wealth on settling the new world, her country became a superpower for more than 400 years. China, in 1433, had discovered the Americas, started to colonize them it, and then gave up, because they wanted to focus on problems at home. They lost everything. We need the exploration and settlement of the space frontier to remain a robust, viable civilization.

The Space Program is part of the solution to unemployment. Increased space funding would directly create hundreds of thousands of new jobs.

The whole Moon has yet to be explored. Where there is heavy cratering, there should be the same natural resources found in asteroids and meteorites. There should be a considerable quantity of high grade iron ore. Using weightless space manufacturing techniques, steel 4 four times stronger than that made on Earth could be created. In lesser amounts, other natural resources include titanium, gold, silver, platinum, and many other elements. Platinum mining could be worthwhile with current space transportation costs.

Construction in outer space, using outer space resources, will dramatically bring down the cost of building space settlements and factories. Solar Energy could be harvested 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and beamed safely down to collectors on Earth.

Werhner Von Braun has stated that growth in the U.S. economy is dependant on research and development. During the 1960s, one fourth of the nation's total research and development was invested in the Space Program. During the same time period, the Gross National Product doubled.

Much of medical technology and industrial processes have benefited from the Sspace Pprogram. A commonly quoted figure is that the benefits are worth 7 seven times the cost.

Finally, tens of thousands of students bettered their education after being inspired by the Apollo Moon Pprogram. Many of these young people dreamed of becoming astronauts or workers on space development. These better educated individuals went on to make the United States economy much stronger, by their becoming more productive members of the work force.

We cannot afford not to go to the Moon, Mars, and the solar system.

J. David Baxter is President of the Utah Space Association and on the board of directors of the National Space Society.