Newsletter 15-3

Issue 15-03, January 14, 2015










 The omnibus spending bill that was signed into law to fund Fiscal Year 2015 was very good for planetary science in light of the overall spending caps that Congress has imposed. There was a top-line increase for the Science Mission Directorate – a total of $5.2447B, $96.5M (1.9%) over last year and $272.7M (5.5%) above the President’s FY15 budget request. The Planetary Science Division was funded at $1.4378B, $94.4M (7.0%) above last year and $157.8M (12.3%) above the FY15 request. As has become usual in recent years, the bill’s report language has much to say about how this funding should be allocated within the division – including the addition of not less than $5M for studying a future New Frontiers mission (missing from the President’s budget request), at least $100M for the Mars 2020 rover mission, $118M in law for a mission to Europa, and $165.4M ($35.4M above FY14) for Research & Analysis.

 A new Congress is now in session and the Republican party has a majority in both the House and Senate, and January is the time when new committee assignments are made.  The good news is that support for planetary science in Congress remains very strong, and we have strong supporters on the relevant committees. The most positive change from a planetary science perspective is that John Culberson (R-TX) is now the Chair of the House science appropriations subcommittee. Representative Culberson is a big supporter of planetary science, and his leadership is likely to benefit the community even more in the coming Congress. Another big change is that the Senate science committee (jurisdiction is e.g. NASA authorization) will now be chaired by Ted Cruz (R-TX).

 The Federal Relations Subcommittee is planning a late February visit to Washington, D.C. to introduce the DPS to new committee members and their staff, and to reconnect with members and staff with which we have existing relationships. FRS is also working with other planetary science groups such as the planetary sections of the AGU and GSA, and the Planetary Society, to advocate wherever we can. But we really need the engagement of our entire community order to be successful.

So what can you do to get involved and have a positive impact on planetary science policy and advocacy?

 Participate in the AAS Congressional Visit Day (CVD) March 17-18

In the past, not many DPS members have participated in the AAS CVD, so please take this opportunity to bring DPS representation to Washington, DC! It is actually a fun event, and the AAS provides training and guidance on conducting these group visits to Congressional offices. Travel support is available, too. We’d like to have a record number of DPS members participating this year.  But you do need to sign up before February 10 at

Respond to calls to action when they are announced

Occasionally, we come to the community with a call to action to write letters or make phone calls to lawmakers on behalf of planetary science. I can tell from experience that these communications really can have an impact, but they really do when there is a very strong response.

 Apply or encourage others to apply for the AAS Bahcall Policy Fellowship

The Bahcall Fellow works at AAS headquarters in Washington, DC on policy matters of interest to AAS. We would love to see a planetary scientist in this role! If you will have a PhD by Fall 2015 and have an interest in a fellowship — one year, renewable for two — in Washington, DC, working on science policy and advocacy, please apply. Some fellows have taken this fellowship immediately after getting a PhD, others have held postdocs prior to taking the position.

 Apply for this National Science Foundation rotator position

If you are a planetary scientist, and in particular an exoplanet scientist, please check out this opportunity to serve at the NSF. The Division of Astronomical Sciences is searching for a scientist to fill a Program Director position for Planetary and Exoplanetary Astronomy: Studies of Solar System and extrasolar planets. The position is offered under the provisions of the Intergovernmental Personnel Act, which provides for a one-year (with possible extension) rotation into NSF. The NSF and NASA are working together on an exoplanet program, and this is your opportunity to have an impact.

Please direct questions or comments to Makenzie Lystrup at [email protected]