How To Get Involved

How to Get Involved

  • Learn about the policy process – One way to start is by reading this Guide to NASA’s Budget from the Planetary Society or take their free, online Space Advocacy 101 Course

  • Stay informed – One way to start is by reading the blog posts on the AAS Public Policy Pages. Lots more links to resources are below!

  • Talk to your representatives – Read our tips for doing this: Communicating With Congress

  • Share your thoughts and concerns with the DPS FRS (Federal Relations Subcommitte) – List of DPS Federal Relations Subcommittee Members

  • Join the DPS FRS! The FRS exists to inform DPS members about the timing and direction of budgetary decisions and to communicate the priorities of the DPS to government officials. Subcommittee member duties include participating in one or more Congressional Hill Visits per year, monthly telecons, and email conversations. To join: Contact the FRS Subcommittee



DPS FRS “Leave-Behinds”: One page (double sided) Summary Documents with Talking Points for Congressional Visits

Resources Specific to the NASA Planetary Science Budget

Friends of DPS and Related Resources on Advocacy and Policy

Editorials and Op-Eds


  Space Exploration

  Space Advocacy

Action Alerts


Most Recent Action Alert

Previous Action Alerts


Action Alert!

Call to Action from the DPS Committee and Federal Relations Subcommittee

27 May 2021

Support the National Science Foundation for the Future Act (Deadline: 1 June 2021)

We ask you to add your name to the Community Support Letter that the American Physical Society has made to indicate your support for the National Science Foundation for the Future Act. It takes only a few clicks from the AAS action alert page linked below. The deadline is 1 June!


Previous AAS/DPS Action Alerts


Graduate Student Petition

U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510

June 20, 2012
Dear House of Representatives and Senate,

As planetary science graduate students representing 33 American institutions, we are deeply concerned about the President’s proposed budget cuts to NASA for FY2013. Specifically, this budget includes a 21% cut in funding to NASA’s planetary science program, which will have serious repercussions for America’s position as a leader in science and technology. These cuts will delay the successful Discovery and New Frontiers programs, seriously damage the hugely successful Mars exploration program for decades to come, and prevent missions to Europa and the gas giants in the outer solar system. In addition, these cuts will force NASA to cancel its planned collaborations with international partners and abandon American leadership in the robotic exploration of the Solar System.

What concerns us the most, however, is the impact that this budget would have on current and future generations of American scientists. Since federal fellowships and grants support many of us in our graduate studies, it would be a shame if we were forced to seek positions abroad after graduation. In addition, the dearth of future planetary missions that will result from the proposed budget will eliminate a key source of inspiration for young elementary, middle and high school students to enter into science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. A strong STEM workforce is a necessary requirement to maintain America’s status as a global leader in innovation and technology.

We are asking that you restore NASA’s funding to the FY2012 levels, consistent with the recommendations of the National Research Council of the National Academies, as put forward in their planetary science decadal survey. We recognize the difficulty of the decisions that you must make during these challenging economic times, but hope that you will not let 2012 mark the end of America’s long tradition of leadership in space exploration.

Thank you for considering our views.

U.S. Graduate Students for NASA Planetary Science

Universities represented: Arizona State University, Brown University, California Institute of Technology, Case Western Reserve, Cornell University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Harvard University, Indiana University at Bloomington, Iowa State University, Johns Hopkins University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, New Mexico State University, Ohio State, Purdue University, San Francisco State University, Stony Brook University, University of Alabama, University of Arizona, University of Arkansas, University of California (Los Angeles), University of Colorado (Boulder), University of Hawaii (Manoa), University of Idaho, University of Maryland (College Park), University of New Mexico, University of Notre Dame, University of Tennessee (Knoxville), University of Texas at Austin, University of Texas at El Paso, University of Virginia, University of Washington, Washington University at St. Louis, and Waynesburg University.


Questions/comments regarding this petition should be directed to Matthew Chojnacki ([email protected])

Example Thank You Letter to Congress

The DPS/FRS has written thank-you letters to Congressional offices after our meetings with them in May. We include the text of the letter here as a guide for writing your own thank-you letters. We encourage you to thank your local Congressional office and continue engaging with them to advocate for planetary science.

Dear [Senator/Representative],

It was a great pleasure meeting with you as part of the American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Science delegation that was received on May 31st 2012.

In our visit, we discussed the ongoing work by your office regarding the FY 2013 NASA Planetary Science budget and the importance of the priorities listed in the Decadal Survey, Vision and Voyages for Planetary Science in the Decade 2013-2023. The priorities of the survey under a budget-constrained environment include strong support for Research and Analysis, small Discovery-class missions launched on a 24-month cadence, and the medium sized New Frontiers competed missions launching twice in the decade. After these priorities have been met, the Decadal survey then supports a large Flagship-class mission.

A key recommendation from our meeting was the adoption during reconciliation of language similar to that in the House Bill (H.R. 5326) for NASA Planetary Science in the FY2013 Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations, in addition to the corresponding report language, as it closely follows the language in our Decadal Survey. Ideally, this would be reflected in the Senate bill if and when it is passed.

We’d like to thank you for your time and for your office’s continued support of American planetary science leadership and the 1200 planetary scientists we represent. We are very grateful for the uniformly bipartisan support for our recommendation that we encountered on May 31st 2012 during our visit to over 30 Congressional offices in the House and the Senate. Please consider us a resource for any planetary science questions you may have, and feel free to contact us with any questions or requests for additional information or visits you may have.


[Your Name]

Appropriations Subcommittee Contact Information for FY2013 NASA Budget

House Appropriations



Frank R. Wolf, Virginia, Chairman
241 Cannon Building
Washington, DC 20515
Tel: (202) 225-5136
(202) 225-0437 fax

John Abney Culberson, Texas
2352 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
Phone: (202) 225-2571
Fax: (202) 225-4381

Robert B. Aderholt, Alabama
2264 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
Tel: 202-225-4876
Fax: 202-225-5587

Jo Bonner, Alabama
2236 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
Tel: 202-225-4931
Fax: 202-225-0562

Steve Austria, Ohio
439 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
Tel: 202-225-4324
Fax: 202-2251984

Tom Graves, Georgia
1113 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
Tel: 202-225-5211
Fax: 202-225-8272

Kevin Yoder, Kansas
214 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
Tel: 202-225-2865
Fax: 202-225-2807


Chaka Fattah, Pennsylvania
2301 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
Tel: 202-225-4001
Fax: 202-225-5392

Adam B. Schiff, California
2411 Rayburn HOB
Washington D.C. 20515
Phone: (202) 225-4176
Fax: (202) 225-5828

Michael M. Honda, California
1713 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
Tel: 202-225-2631
Fax: 202-225-2699

José E. Serrano, New York
2227 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
Tel: 202-225-4361
Fax: 202-225-6001

Senate Appropriations

Sen. Barbara Mikulski Chair Senate Appropriations Commerce, Justice, and Science Subcommittee
503 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Phone: 202-224-4654
Fax: 202-224-8858

Sen. Dianne Feinstein Senate Appropriations Commerce, Justice, and Science Subcommittee
331 Hart Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, D.C. 20510
Phone: (202) 224-3841
Fax: (202) 228-3954

Talking Points for NASA Budget Conversations with Congress

  • Planetary science activities provide an excellent value to the taxpayer and provide a strong return on investment
  • We are in the middle of a major revolution in the understanding of the origin and evolution to the solar system and if there is life beyond Earth. This leadership is a result of strong support for planetary science by Congress, which we appreciate.
  • The planetary science community came together in 2009-2010 to decide on the set of priorities for the 2013-2022 time period, identifying the most important science questions in the discipline and the most effective ways of answering those questions in a realistic way given the resources available. The Planetary Decadal survey lays out a plan for the next decade with solid community support.  A mid-decadal review was recently released which concluded that NASA is executing the Planetary Decadal survey’s plan well.
  • Advocate continuing to find synergies between robotic and human exploration, including basic understanding of targets such as Moon, Mars, and cis-Lunar space.
  • Several moons of the outer solar system including Europa and Enceladus likely have water oceans and the “ingredients” required for life. By exploring these worlds, we can address one of the most important questions in all of science: Is there life beyond Earth?
  • In direct response to the planetary Decadal Survey, the present planetary flagship missions have taken the first steps toward returning samples from Mars and exploring Jupiter’s moon Europa within a cost-constrained planetary program, and we encourage this cost-effective management to continue.
  • Planetary science discoveries are a major motivation for students pursuing the Science, Engineering, Technology, and Mathematics (STEM) careers that propels the U.S. forward.
  • As new mission projects are trending toward decreasing the support of science coinvestigator FTEs the health of Research & Analysis grants provided by both NASA and NSF increases to a vitally important level for maintaing the highly capable work force of our nation’s planetary scientists, yet the overall level of these funds is flat or decreasing and not compensating for the transitions from older missions.
  • NASA has historically worked closely with our international partners to development joint missions that lower the overall cost to US taxpayers while substaintially increasing the science output of these missions. We encourage future collaborations for missions of all scales to maximize future science return while fostering strong ties between science communities globally. 
  • Additional priorities for planetary exploration include maintaining options for telecommunications infrastructure at Mars, ensuring the Deep Space Network fully operational well into the long lifetimes of planned outer solar system missions, keeping up the pace of production for plutonium 238, and continued investments in technology development.
  • Innovative technologies developed for space have broader utility and impact that benefits all of society.

AAS DPS Federal Budget Asks and Concerns

Summary of FY2021 FRS Budget Asks

  • Current selection rates for Planetary Science Division (PSD) R&A Programs are ~20%. In order to increase grant selection rates to a sustainable 33% requires an additional $200 million to NASA’s PSD budget for Planetary R&A.

  • To ensure that the U.S. remains a global leader in innovation, we ask that Congress fund sustained, robust growth for the science agencies, including the NASA Science Mission Directorate (SMD), NSF, and the DOE Office of Science (SC).

  • In FY21, the AAS:

    • Supports an appropriation that enables an FY24 Europa Clipper launch without delay, completion of James Webb Space Telescope, and continues to support Planetary Defense Coordination Office activities, including Arecibo Observatory

    • Seeks an historic increase for NSF to jumpstart the U.S. scientific enterprise and long-term economic security, enabling investments like mid-scale instrumentation

    • Advocates for strong Research & Analysis grant funding (>$350 million) and following the balanced cadence of Small and Mid-scale missions called for in the Planetary Sciences Decadal Survey

Summary of FY2019 FRS Budget Asks

  • To ensure that the U.S. remains a global leader in innovation, we ask that Congress fund sustained, robust growth for the science agencies, including the NASA Science Mission Directorate (SMD), NSF, and the DOE Office of Science (SC).

  • In FY19, the AAS:

    • Supports an appropriation that enables an FY22 launch of Europa Clipper

    • Seeks an historic increase for NSF to jumpstart the U.S. scientific enterprise and long-term economic security

    • Requests increased investment for mid-scale instrumentation at NSF

    • Strongly opposes the administration’s proposed cut to astrophysics and cancellation of the top astrophysics decadal priority: WFIRST

Summary of FY2013 NASA Budget Issues

  • Reduces the NASA planetary exploration budget by $309M (20.6%), including reducing the Mars program by $130M (38%).

  • Immediate (2012) cancellation of two ambitious Mars missions with ESA, which may not be recoverable at this point. This action harms the international partnerships responsible for many of the great advances in planetary explorations such as HST, Cassini/Huygens, Ulysses..

  • Ending the highly successful U.S. Mars program that regularly accessed the Martian surface and maintained diverse orbital assets for the ongoing study of this dynamic and exciting world.

  • Significant reductions in the outer solar system program which will curtail its operations after 2017 with the end of Cassini. Even modest actions such as the study of Uranus orbiter are pushed later in decade.

  • Declining net support for the foundational Research and Data analysis programs from which taxpayers gain ongoing return from their continued investment in solar system exploration missions and which provide and maintain the knowledge necessary to design cost-effective missions in the future.

  • Reduced support for ongoing solar system exploration missions, worsening a time of layoffs and hiring freezes for U.S. scientists and engineers, while reducing mission return.

  • Degrading the workhorse Discovery program from an early cadence of 24 months to 56 months, and degrading the New Frontiers program from a planned cadence of two per decade to one per decade.

  • No new flagship-class missions – no more Voyagers, Galileos or Cassinis. This chapter in American solar system exploration closes with the recent launch of Mars Science Laboratory.


Example Congressional Letter for FY201X NASA Budget

Example Congressional Letter on the Topic of NASA PSD Budget Cuts:

The Honorable [Senator/Representative] ______________________

United States Senate/House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20510 (Senate) 20515 (House)

Dear Senator/Representative ___________________

I am writing you to express my concern about the President’s proposed Fiscal Year 201X budget for NASA which calls for cuts to the nation’s very successful and productive planetary science program. The Planetary Science Division in NASA falls in FY1X to $1.X billion from a current $1.X billion, a drop of over X%. These cuts will force NASA to halt consideration of new missions, retreat from international partnerships, and abandon American leadership of the robotic exploration of the solar system. I urge Congress to restore and maintain planetary science funding at FY 201X levels of consistent with the recommendations of the National Research Council of the National Academies planetary sciences decadal survey and direct NASA to plan for a program based on continuing funding at sustainable levels. Thank you for considering my views. Please do not hesitate to contact me if I can be of further assistance on this issue.

[Your Name and Address]


More tips on writing letters from the AIP

Plutonium 238 Production


Setting Up a Congressional Visit


When visiting Washington, the DPS encourages you to contact at least three people’s offices: your two Senators, and the representative in your voting district. If you work in a different district than you vote in, then they recommend that you contact that person’s office as well.

The most effective way to set up a Congressional visit is by sending an email to the staffer in charge of scheduling. The email can be obtained either via the web page for your Congressional representative, or by calling the main office and getting right to the point of wanting to schedule a meeting for reason X. Below is a sample “template” that you might find useful.

The key is to be succinct and to tell them why you want to meet and when you are available. Don’t forget to tell them that you are a constituent, and play up the “local angle” to your visit. Some of them call back within a few days, others email back. Some never reply at all. If you don’t get a reply within 2-3 days, follow up with a phone call to the office, mentioning that you emailed the scheduler already but have not heard back. Most of the time this will get you in the door.

The DPS maintains a one page (double-sided) handout with talking points on current issues designed for Congressional visits that you can consider printing out and leaving with the representative or staffer that you visit. See the DPS FRS Communicating with Congress page for the most recent copy of this handout.

————————————— SAMPLE TEMPLATE ————————————–
To: Scheduler for Sen. Charles Schumer
Fax: 202-228-3027

From: Prof. Jim Bell, Cornell University
Re: Meeting request for Thursday May 17

Dear Sir or Madam,

I am a constituent living in the town of Lansing, and I am also an astronomy professor at Cornell University in Ithaca. I will be in D.C. on Thursday May 17 with a group from the American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Sciences, meeting with a number of members of Congress and their staffers to discuss recent issues related to science, NASA, and the future of the U.S. space program.

I would like to request a short meeting, if possible, with either Sen. Schumer or one of his staffers, to discuss these issues as well as to provide an update on the role that folks here at Cornell in Ithaca and the surrounding region are playing in the space program. Previously I have had very productive meetings with Ms. Heather Langdon on the Senator’s staff, discussing many of these same issues.

My schedule is free until about 2:00 p.m. on May 17, and so I am willing to be flexible in scheduling a meeting any time before then. I could also accommodate a meeting after 3:30 p.m. on May 16.

Please let me know if there is any other information that you require. My office phone number is 607-255-5911 and my email is ….

Thank you!
etc. etc.