Sept. 22, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Griffin, Harris, Jones and Lampson: Space Exploration: A Wise Investment for America

The roll-out of the 2013 budget signals a new round of discussions and deliberation on the issues critical to our nation. We encourage Congress to consider NASAís budget carefully. Securing a robust budget for NASA and the nationís space program is not only an investment that sustains U.S. leadership in space, it is a prudent investment for our economy and our nationís future.

NASAís funding level has been in retreat for more than two decades, while domestic spending has increased by nearly one-third within just the past five years. Under funding and cuts to the NASA budget would jeopardize the success of not just future programs, but also those under way. Our space initiatives require diligence and continuity to gather momentum if we are to reap their many rewards now and in the decades ahead.

We are turning some exciting new pages in the chronicle of our nationís exploration of space, including promising studies of a potentially habitable planet in another solar system, the landing of an ambitious Mars rover this August, the first in-depth study of Earthís moon and its evolution, a vigorous campaign to recruit a new generation of astronauts and a commitment from NASA to send them on bold expeditions to deep space.

Thereís every reason to believe that future strides in space exploration will produce awe-inspiring discoveries, life-enhancing opportunities and new wealth for generations to come. We can turn that potential into reality if we invest with vision and commitment in our nationís space program.

The focus of NASA and its partners is transitioning to new spacecraft and technologies that will enable humans to explore Mars and create a thriving economy between the Earth and moon. These may seem to some like far off aspirations that can wait. Yet, the development of the engineering and scientific skills base, the education and training of the men and women who will make those achievements possible, cannot wait.

And we should not.

To reap the benefits of these discoveries in the future, we have to make the proper investment now. The new year brings a fresh slate of possibilities and the need for continued action. For the health of the economy, the jobs at stake and our competitive position in the global market, we ask for a commitment to preserve and expand NASAís budget. Our policymakers should make our future in space a renewed priority. With proper funding, we have the opportunity to make our space effort even more productive.

Recently, NASAís Kepler space telescope mission confirmed the first discovery of a planet circling a sun-like star under conditions favorable for life as we know it. Suddenly, centuries of speculation about the presence of life elsewhere in the universe found firmer scientific footing. Kepler-22bís existence stood out in a daily news churn often dominated by economic turmoil, Washington, D.C., infighting and celebrity mischief.

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