Call to Action from the DPS Committee and Federal Relations Subcommittee

The DPS Committee condemns in the strongest possible terms the recent restrictions in visas and travel policy for students, postdocs, and researchers in planetary science and related fields. In particular, the sudden cancellation of student visas at universities offering predominantly online learning throughout the COVID-19 pandemic compromises the health and safety of students and faculty. Moreover, it sends the message that the US does not value the talents and contributions of the best and brightest that the world has to offer, and disregards the hard work and brilliance of immigrant scientists that is integral to the U.S. research enterprise. With only 5 weeks remaining before the start of classes at most schools, these policy changes create a logistical nightmare that must be opposed, in addition to the chaos caused by new travel restrictions for visa holders.

To that end, the DPS Committee and the Federal Relations Subcommittee (FRS) encourage members to sign the petition here:

Additionally, we urge members to contact your elected representatives and express our concerns about these recent attacks on planetary science. Phone calls are a very effective method for reaching your representatives. Meanwhile, the DPS FRS and AAS CAPP are working to advocate against these policy changes by writing letters in coordination with other professional societies and preparing to support major lawsuits as they arise; this work is in progress. The FRS welcomes member participation in the FRS, and you can reach out to members of the committee here leadership/frs.

A possible set of talking points for use with your elected representatives might be:

“I am calling to let you know about the impact of the Administration’s recent restrictions on F-1, M-1, J-1, J-2, and H1B visas and travel for students, postdocs, and researchers. These restrictions represent a direct threat to the research enterprise. I would greatly appreciate your work to undo these restrictions. Starting with the Fall 2020 semester, international students attending schools that operate entirely online will not be allowed to remain in the USA and will be required to leave the USA despite the pandemic. This executive action both puts researchers and students in harm’s way and works against ournational economic competitiveness. We appreciate any efforts your office can make to overturn these restrictions in any legislative actions that arise in the months ahead.”


7 July 2020

Message From The FRS Chair: Revised And Corrected Action Alert

Please see this updated Action Alert and text for your letters to Congress. The FRS Chair apologizes for using an older version of the text while reacting to the news of the day.

Action alert!

This week we are asking each AAS/DPS member to write letters and make phone calls to your representatives in order to advocate for planetary science.

Why now?

•    The President’s fully detailed Budget Request for Fiscal Year 2018 is planned for release in mid-May, and initial guidelines indicate that dramatic cuts in discretionary, non-defense areas such as science are in store across the government.

•    The President’s just released “skinny budget” for FY18 generously increases Planetary Science to $1.9B, while NASA’s top line would be cut by 0.8%.  NASA fares better in this budget than almost every other agency not related to national security and veterans.  A top line number for the Science Mission Directorate is not given, and neither are totals for the Astrophysics and Heliophysics divisions, but a cut for Earth Science is specified. The National Science Foundation (NSF) is not shown as separate a line item, but it is potentially facing a 10% cut if one assumes an across-the-board cut for all the agencies in the budget line into which NSF has been aggregated.

•    The House and Senate still haven’t passed a full year FY17 science appropriations bill and we want them to know where we stand on targets for FY18. The current continuing resolution funds the government through April 28.  

•    With numerous other policy issues dominating the political landscape, we are trying to remain above the noise and leverage the attention of Congressional staff who favor planetary science funding. Recall that the President proposes, but Congress disposes.

•    Science advocacy is broadly important for us to all engage in, now more than ever, and responding to this action alert provides a focused, proven-effective means to have your concerns heard by decision makers.


Why should you participate?

•    Constituents matter to Members of Congress! Letters and especially calls from constituents force staffers to sit up and take notice of an issue. If a number of letters and calls come in at once from constituents, it has an even greater impact.

•    Even if your elected official is not on one of the following committees: House Committee on Science, Space, & Technology, House Committee on Appropriations, Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, & Transportation, they still vote on bills and have influence with their colleagues. Often it is the congressional Member without a NASA center or other large vested interest in their district who needs the most education and convincing on space-related topics.

•    We have had success in garnering Congressional support for planetary science, and we need to maintain and build on that momentum.

It is important to get as many people to contact as many Members of Congress as possible, so please participate! We encourage you to use social media to promote this call to action to help amplify the message and encourage others to act (use Twitter hashtag #FundPlanetary).  Here’s what we’re asking you to do this week:


•    The letter template below provides a clear, disciplined message that is consistent with the messages DPS has been pushing in our overall advocacy campaign.

•    Do customize your communications! In particular, stories about your own scientific work, the interactions with your students, and public outreach are compelling to Congressional offices. Keep it short and concise.  Tailor one or more paragraphs in the template.

•    You will likely need to submit your letter through a form on your Members of Congress’s websites. And most members of Congress communicate through social media, so use those channels as well!


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. You can ask to speak to the staffer who handles science and space issues; in most cases, they will connect you and you can speak directly to that staffer or leave a voicemail.

•                      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 planetary science and solar system exploration programs. Congress has consistently supported planetary science in recent years, and I hope the field can rely on its continued support. 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.

•    Once you realize how painless this ~5 min process was, plan to call back and firm up your connection the following week.  Or better yet, call weekly for each of the next 5 weeks to elaborate more on each of your favorite 5 topics listed in the letter. 


How do you know who to write to and call?

To find out who your Members of Congress are and get their phone numbers and websites, the AAS website has helpful search tool.

An important final 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!


Dear [Representative/Senator] [Last name],

I am a constituent from [town where you live] and a planetary scientist working at [your institution]. 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 look ahead to the Fiscal Year 2018 budget. I am asking that you support an FY18 budget level of $1.9B for NASA’s Planetary Science Division – the same as the President has just requested – in order to accomplish the goals set out in the National Research Council’s 2013 Vision and Voyages Decadal Survey. I am also requesting a commensurate increase for the entire NASA Science Mission Directorate so that the increase for planetary science does not come at the expense of the important goals set out by the decadal surveys for the astrophysics, heliophysics, and earth science divisions. I am also concerned about potential cuts to the National Science Foundation (NSF) in the President’s budget since the recent “skinny budget” lumped NSF into an “other agency” line with a 10% cut. NSF supports critical research grants in the planetary sciences so I request that Congress appropriate at least $8B for NSF in Fiscal Year 2018. You may have seen some of the milestones and scientific advances that have been made by this highly successful government office in this area in recent months: [Choose which highlights you want to use, remove the others, and/or add your own]

•    NASA’s Juno mission recently started its primary science mission in orbit about the planet Jupiter. Over the next couple of years, Juno is poised to shed light on the origin of the planets in our Solar System.

•    All of New Horizons’ Pluto observations have now been downlinked to Earth, and new discoveries continue to flow while it travels on to Kuiper Belt target (486958) 2014 MU69.

•    Observations from NSF’s Very Large Array have provided an unprecedented look at a previously unexplored region of Jupiter’s atmosphere and revealed new information about Jupiter’s atmospheric dynamics.

•    The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft successfully launched from Cape Canaveral last September to begin its journey to a nearby asteroid. There it will collect a sample of this cosmic building block and return it for study here on the Earth.

•    NSF’s Large Synoptic Survey Telescope will survey the entire visible sky every few nights, which could catalog millions of asteroids and thousands of near-Earth objects. 

•    NASA’s Cassini spacecraft convincingly determined that Enceladus, an icy moon of Saturn, contains a global ocean of liquid water beneath its surface. Like Europa, this may be an ideal place to search for life.

•    NASA’s Kepler and Spitzer missions have detected and characterized nearly 5,000 exoplanets, including seven Earth-sized worlds in the TRAPPIST-1 system. These detections have revolutionized our understanding of planetary formation and the prevalence of habitable worlds.

•    The Dawn mission has been orbiting and studying the dwarf planet Ceres, where it revealed vast deposits of carbonate salts, the solid residue from evaporation of salt-saturated water, indicative of recent geologic activity.

•    When the James Webb Space Telescope is launched in 2018, planetary scientists will have a new, powerful tool for observing solar system targets.

•    Recent orbital observations at Mars have revealed a possible source of liquid water near the Curiosity rover. NASA is now investigating the feasibility of using Curiosity to study flowing water on Mars for the first time.

Events like these reaffirm America’s pioneering role in planetary science and exploration. Furthermore, they capture the imagination of the public and inspire the next generation of scientists, engineers, and technologists. Vital partnerships between NASA and private industry ensure that we make full use of the latest technological innovations and advance scientific discoveries.

[Discussion of your scientific work, work with students, impact in your district/state]

We strive to maintain America’s leadership role in planetary science and exploration and NASA’s and NSF’s ability to support a vibrant science community. In general, Congress has consistently supported planetary science, and I want to thank you and your colleagues for that support. I hope you will continue that support by enacting a Fiscal Year 2018 budget in regular order for the NASA Planetary Science Division at a level of $1.9B – the same as the President has just requested. This level of support will help ensure that we 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, medium, and small missions across the solar system, research and analysis, and technology development. A commensurate increase to NASA’s Science Mission Directorate budget for Fiscal year 2018 will further strengthen a well-balanced program across the disciplines. And at least $8B for the National Science Foundation will help ensure our nation’s scientific leadership while supporting critical planetary science research grants and facilities.


[Your name]

[Town, State]



16 March 2017

Message From The FRS: Call To Action This Week – Please Contact Your Members Of Congress

This week we are asking each member of the DPS to contact his/her members of Congress to encourage strong support for planetary science. In Fiscal Year 2016 Congress appropriated $1.63B for planetary science and we want to be sure that the FY2017 appropriation is at least at that level. While we hope that Congress can pass appropriations in regular order it is likely that there will be a continuing resolution of some duration passed by the end of this fiscal year. There is a lot of uncertainty there but Congressional support for planetary science has been very strong in recent years; we want to encourage that to continue. Congress is currently in August recess so staff members are less busy with the day-to-day demands of the Hill. When Congress reconvenes in September there will be a lot of activity surrounding current events, getting an FY2017 appropriation together, and the election. So this coming week gives us an opportunity to get out a positive message regarding support for planetary science. 

For details of this call to action please go to 


and if you have any questions please feel free to contact Makenzie Lystrup, and please distribute through social media and other avenues!


28 Aug 2016

Call to Action from DPS Federal Relations Subcommittee Chair


The AAS has issued an action alert to its members this week, and we have an opportunity to piggy back on their efforts. The planetary sections of other scientific societies are also calling members to action this week. Details of the action alert are at

The House of Representatives’ Commerce, Justice, and Science (CJS) Appropriations Subcommittee is responsible for funding NASA and NSF. The full Appropriations Committee in the House recently passed this bill out of committee, and it now heads to the floor (likely on May 29) for the full House’s consideration, subject to potential amendments. The bill, as currently written, would increase the NASA top-line budget to $17.9 billion. In that context, SMD would increase to $5.19 billion, and planetary science did very well in garnering an increase to $1.45 billion.

Under current budget rules, any increases for programs in the bill must be offset by decreases to other programs within this same bill. When the Appropriations Committee considered this bill, the chairman of the CJS subcommittee, Rep. Frank Wolf (R, VA-10), indicated that he expects some members of the House will look to augment other programs (e.g., the Community Oriented Policing Services program) by taking money from science. These types of amendments have been introduced and passed in the past. The attempts to shift funding away from science would come in the form of amendments on the House floor when the chamber considers the bill on or about Thursday, May 29th.

Please contact your member of the House of Representatives as soon as possible – the schedule is highly subject to change. If you do contact your Representative, we encourage you to convey a nuanced two-part message: (1) support for NASA and NSF funding levels in the bill as introduced, and (2) oppose amendments that would reduce these levels. You can use the resource set up by the AAS at

If you have questions, please contact Makenzie Lystrup a

–Makenzie Lystrup, FRS Chair (


27 May 2014