Public Policy

Action alert!

This week we are asking each of you to write letters and make phone calls to advocate for planetary science. This DPS members call to action is being coordinated with a simultaneous call to action for the planetary section members of AGU and GSA, so we have many planetary scientists to draw upon.

Please participate regardless of whether you think your Members of Congress care about science or are on the “right” committees. What’s most important is getting as many people to contact as many Members as possible. And we encourage you to use social media to promote this call to action to help amplify the message and encourage others to act. The Twitter hashtag is #FundPlanetary.

Why now?

  • The bipartisan, bicameral budget committee has a deadline of December 13, and we want to influence that process.
  • The MAVEN launch scheduled for November 18 provides an excellent news hook.
  • The leadership of DPS, the planetary sections of AGU and GSA, and The Planetary Society sent a joint letter to Congress (see below) on October 25 that is having an impact. Following up just a few weeks later with community action is the next step of our campaign and can maximize the impact.
  • We want to get this call to action out before the week of Thanksgiving so we can reach members and staff while they are still in town.

Why should you participate?

  • Constituents matter above all to Members of Congress! Letters and calls from constituents force staffers to sit up and take notice of an issue. If a number of them come in at once from constituents, it has an even more important impact.
  • Even if your elected official is not on the “right” committees, he/she still votes on bills and has influence with his/her colleagues.
  • We have had success in garnering Congressional support for planetary science, and we need to maintain and build on that momentum.
  • Many interest groups are advocating for themselves in these uncertain budget times. We really need our signal to rise above the noise.

Here’s what we’re asking you to do this week:


  • The letter template below provides clear, disciplined message that is consistent with the messages DPS has been pushing in our overall advocacy campaign.
  • Change the boldface portions to customize to you.
  • Copy and paste the letter into the email form on your Members of Congress’s websites.
  • Ideally, mail a hardcopy too.

Phone calls

  • After you have sent the emails, call each of the Congressional offices. Be polite and nice! The people who answer the phones work hard and tend to suffer a lot of abuse from angry constituents; when you’re nice, you get more carefully listened to.
    • Hello, my name is ________, and I am a constituent from _________. I am also a planetary scientist working at _______________. I’m calling to ask Representative/Senator _____________ to support NASA’s planetary science and solar system exploration programs. The cuts to NASA’s Planetary Science Division proposed by the Administration coupled with sequestration greatly threaten U.S. leadership. I have sent a more detailed letter to your boss using your website; I hope your office has time read it. Thank you very much.

How do you know who to write to and call?

  • For writing to your Representative and Senators, you will also need to fill out their online contact forms. (These letters really will reach them!) To find out who your Members of Congress are and get their phone numbers and websites, the AAS website has helpful search tool.
  • Due to how districts are drawn, you may need to know your full zip code (zip + 4 digits). To find your full zip code you can use the USPS site.

We know that this will take your time and energy. We plan to engage our membership for action only a couple of times of year when it will have the most impact. Please do as much as you can.

  • Good: Email letters to your members of Congress
  • Better: Email letters to your members of Congress + Call your Members of Congress
  • Best: Email letters to your members of Congress + Call your Members of Congress + Mail a hardcopy of your letter to your Members of Congress

An important last note: Be certain you understand your employer’s rules about such action. Federal employees, for example, must not conduct such activities using federal resources, i.e. you must participate using your personal time/email/phone number/electronic devices. No matter where you work, your Constitutional rights to petition your government are always valid; you can always participate in advocacy like this, but you may need to be careful about doing it on your own time and resources.

Thank you – we’re looking forward to a strong response to this call to action!

START OF LETTER TEMPLATE ************************************

Dear [Representative/Senator] [Last name],

I am a constituent from [town where you live] and a planetary scientist working at [your institution]. [Optional: A few sentences about what career stage you are in, what kind of work you do, etc.] I write to you to ask for your support in maintaining a healthy program of U.S. solar system exploration as you and your colleagues work toward a full year Fiscal Year 2014 appropriation.

You may have seen the news that on November 18 the MAVEN mission successfully launched and is on its way to Mars to study the Martian atmosphere. The spacecraft is carrying with it a DVD containing more than 100,000 names and haiku poems submitted by the public and 377 pieces of art submitted by students. It was estimated that tens of thousands of members of the general public will have watched the launch or participated in a launch-related event. This is the latest example of how planetary science missions inspire the public and future generations of engineers and scientists. That is in addition to returning ground-breaking science and spurring creative technological solutions within NASA and private industry. Yet reductions proposed in the President’s Fiscal Year 2013 and 2014 budget requests could cripple planetary science. We have already seen missions delayed and cancelled, international partnerships broken, and we face decades of lost science.

In order to maintain U.S. leadership in planetary science and exploration, I ask you to:

  • Ensure that NASA’s Planetary Science Division budget can meet the goals laid out in the National Research Council’s Decadal Survey report for Planetary Science.* This includes the report’s recommendation that the Planetary Science Division maintain a balanced program of large (Flagship), medium (New Frontiers), and small (Discovery) missions across the solar system, research and analysis, and technology development.
  • Urge your colleagues on the budget committee to end sequestration, which has had a severely damaging impact on NASA, planetary science, and federal research and development across the board.

The problems with the Planetary Science Division budget are part of a larger problem of insufficient funding for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, despite the enormous benefits to society and the potential for world-leading discovery and exploration. As other nations substantially expand their planetary exploration and scientific research efforts, those of the U.S. are set to decline without your support. For example, on Tuesday, November 5, India successfully launched a mission to Mars. As the Washington Post reported on India’s launch, “Meanwhile, the United States has been losing its historical dominance in the arena as funding has slumped and other nations have jumped into the fray.”**

[Optional: A few sentences or an anecdote about how the cuts to planetary could affect you personally, e.g. your research, your students]

Thank you for hearing my concerns and considering my requests. If you have any questions, or if I can provide other information regarding planetary science to you, please get in touch.


[Your name]

[Town, State]

*“Visions and Voyages for Planetary Science in the Decade 2013-2022”, Committee on the Planetary Science Decadal Survey, National Research Council, 2011


END OF LETTER TEMPLATE ************************************




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