June 9, 2012
Bake Sales, Car Washes To Benefit NASA
With NASA facing a possible $300 million cut to its planetary science program, students and professors at universities across the country are going to the extreme in order to help out the US space program -- including holding car washes, bake sales, and shoe-shine events.
According to a press release from the University of Central Florida (UCF), one of the participating institutions, nearly 20 different groups are pulling together this weekend in order to "send a clear message to Congress" regarding possible NASA budget cuts that have been "proposed by the Obama administration."
Those funding reductions "will cripple the country´s future in space exploration by eliminating almost all non-manned planetary space missions through the next two decades" -- missions that they say "have produced captivating discoveries this decade, including the first evidence of water on the moon and the first glimpse of the Mars surface" and are "expected to offer the first real look at Pluto and beyond" in just a few years' time.
As a result, students and professors from the university will be holding a Planetary Exploration Car Wash and Bake sale from 10am to 3pm Saturday, June 9 at a location near the campus. Donations will help cover the expenses of the event as well as fund future education outreach, and it is part of a nationwide event that is being organized by the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI).
The event is being held not to actually raise money for the ailing American space program, but to increase awareness of their funding woes, the organizers told AFP on Friday. As SwRI assistant Cindy Conrad told the news agency, "Our goal is not to raise money but to raise awareness and to have people tell Congress to put the funds back to last year's funding level."
"This is being done to attract media attention and to help focus Congress on repairing the damage of the deep cuts planned to NASA's planetary science program," added Alan Stern, the SwRI's associate vice president for research and development, in an interview with Space.com's Clara Moskowitz. "It's important these cuts be repaired to maintain U.S. leadership in this area of science, to prevent mission cuts, and to prevent student and research job losses."
The Institute themselves will be hosting a Planetary Shoe Shine Saturday in Boulder, Colorado from 9:00am to 1:00pm, the Huffington Post reported. The Mountain View, California-based the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute is also planning to participate in the program, according to Moskowitz.
"The nation risks the loss of a generation of upcoming, talented engineers and researchers whose careers are centered on the exploration of our solar system in the quest for life beyond Earth," said Outgoing Center for SETI Research Director Jill Tarter told Space.com.