Sunday, July 29, 2012

Jim Green's Post to the Planetary Exploration Newsletter

Dear Friends,

NASA's budget has been cut so badly that most of the planetary missions in the planning stages are threatened with no funding.  Jim Green sent out the message forwarded below to the planetary science community.  As a NASA employee, he can't encourage you to take part in political actions.  However, he alludes to the budgetary dangers that threaten future planetary exploration.  If Curiosity and the MSL team provide an exceptionally successful scientific mission with lots of public support, there might be more support in congress for future planetary exploration.  Thus, enjoy the mission and let your political representatives know how important it is to you and your friends.

Just to put the costs in perspective:  MSL is an exceptionally expensive mission, projected to cost ~$2.5 billion over 10 years (8 years of development and 2 years of mission).  That is a lot of money.  However, it is a tiny bit of money compared to many other things our government spends (wastes?) money on.  For example, 1 day of war in Iraq cost ~$720 million, so the entire MSL mission will cost the rough equivalent of 3.5 days of war (see also  Some politicians argue that the money spent on war goes mostly to American companies, etc., etc.  The same is true for planetary exploration missions.  They also develop new technology.  And unlike war, they do not take people's lives and they do inspire young scientists and engineers.  

May the people of the world explore the planets together!


PS:  It's my early evening equivalent time: 11 pm, target bed time:  3 am again.  I barely made it last night.


Volume 6, Number 33 (July 29, 2012)

Editor: Susan Benecchi 
Co-Editors: Mark V. Sykes, Melissa Lane
Email: pen_editor at

o---------------------------SPECIAL EDITION---------------------------o


James L. Green, Director Planetary Science, NASA

One week from today, our community will be forever changed, one way or 
the other, no matter what. The landing of the Mars Curiosity Rover at 
Gale Crater occurs at 1:31 AM (Easter Daylight Time) and it will be a history 
event. Curiosity is our latest flagship mission and it demands all of 
our attention. This feat represents the most difficult entry, descent, 
and landing (what is known as EDL) of a planetary science rover ever 
attempted, anywhere.  As you may already know, the historical success 
rate at the planet Mars is only 40%. Although our landing percentage 
odds are higher (100%), successful landing with an unproven, next 
generation, landing system…well, that will be a white-knuckle-
experience to say the least.

One short week away is the crescendo of the "Martian - Year of the 
Solar System." In addition to planetary's two years of success; for 
the MSL team, it's the culmination of over 8 long years of effort. 
Frankly, the future of the Mars program and perhaps planetary science 
is at stake. It goes without saying that we are in trying budgetary 

Each one of us in the planetary science community should appreciate, 
understand, and take ownership of this event. We should discuss 
Curiosity's Landing to our friends, neighbors, and colleagues.  
Whether you are part of the Mars program or not, I encourage you 
to become aware of what will happen in one week and talk to your own 
"network" of family and friends. At the very least, watch the 
"7 Minutes of Terror" video on Youtube, and hear firsthand what will 
occur. Beginning tomorrow, an animation will be available showcasing 
EDL on our Eyes On Solar System website:

An entire "toolkit" has been created to assist you in raising 
awareness and communicating all aspects of this incredible mission 
and the EDL event at: 

If you are hosting a landing event or are looking to participate 
in an event near you, please go to to find a 
location before the landing. Or, during the landing, watch it, live, 
online at that same site. For Curiosity and planetary science on 
August 6th, one way or another, our world will not be the same.

* The Planetary Exploration Newsletter is issued approximately weekly.
* Current and back issues are available at   
* send a request to pen_editor at
* To unsubscribe, send an email to pen_editor at
* Please send all replies and submissions to pen_editor at    
* Announcements and other messages should be brief with links to URLs  
* for extended information, including detailed descriptions for job    
* announcements. Title plus text is limited to 200 words. Go to        
* for complete submission     
* directions.                                                          
* PEN is a service provided by the Planetary Science Institute         
* (                                                

No comments:

Post a Comment