Planetary Society Urges Congress to Reconsider Space Exploration Plan

ThePlanetary Society, a non-profit organization involved in space advocacy, isdeeply concerned about the future of U.S. space exploration and is urging Congressto reconsider NASA's current plans.

Inan Aug. 18 letter, the society asks Congress to revisit the current human space exploration plan. The letter was sent to the leaders of four subcommittees currently discussing policies thataffect NASA's futureand also highlights what the societycontends are oversights in the current space exploration bills under discussion.

"Weare concerned about omissions and a lack of coherence in the four committees'versions of this bill," members of the Planetary Society stated in the letter.

ThePlanetary Society list of problems in the bills includes apparent vaguenesssurrounding what will replace NASA's retiring space shuttles, and future goals for human spaceflight.

NASA'scurrent plan is to complete construction on of the International Space Stationnext year after two final space shuttle missions, though a potential thirdshuttle flight is being discussed in Congress. [NASA's New Direction: FAQ]

Oncethe shuttles are retired, NASA will rely on Russian, Japanese and European spacecraftto ferry astronauts and cargo to the station until American commercialspacecraft are available. President Barack Obama canceled NASA's previousmoon-oriented Constellation exploration program. In its place, he has called onNASA to mount a manned mission to an asteroid by 2025 as part of the new plan.

PlanetarySociety officials said the bills drawn up in Congress have so far gone againstthe president's directives.

"Thebills reject the President's new plan, as well as the old Constellation plan,and instead come up with a patchwork of proposals," said Louis Friedman,executive director of the Planetary Society.

Theletter is signed by Friedman, as well as incoming executive director, Bill Nye(TV's Science Guy), society president Jim Bell, and vice-president HeidiHammel.

Theletter asks the senators and House representatives to step back from each ofthe congressional bills that have been passed by the Authorization andAppropriations committees, and instead work on refocusing the whole initiative.

ThePlanetary Society was founded in 1980 by the late famed astronomer Carl Sagan, Friedmanand planetary scientist Bruce Murray.

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