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Sun-Earth Connection Division (SEC)

AAS ACTION ALERT 2004-01

 

SUMMARY

This Action Alert calls upon AAS members to contact their members of congress to repair the cuts to the Sun-Earth Connection Division (SEC) of the Office of Space Science in the President's FY 2005 budget submission. (Subsequent Action Alerts will focus on other critical areas: SEU, explorer class missions, etc.)

While the proposed cuts are intended to support the proposed exploration vision set forth by the President, they will severely limit the Division's ability to support exploration of the moon and Mars. The proposed changes to the SEC are not consistent with NASA's previous long range plans as described in the Decadal Survey, and the implications of these changes should be carefully considered. We all recognize that these proposals are coming at a time when the federal budget is extremely tight. However, the proposed cuts will limit our ability to make new discoveries about the workings of the Sun-Earth system, at the time when those discoveries are most needed to support the proposed exploration initiative.

We are asking that congress restore funding for programs within the SEC Division that have been cut: the Explorer line, the Solar-Terrestrial Probe line, the sub-orbital program and associated Guest Investigator and SR&T programs.

THE PROBLEM

The effect of the President's budget on the SEC is most easily seen at the top level:

2005 2006 2007 2008
FY 2004 SEC Request 959 1111 1169 1216
FY 2005 SEC Request 746 781 788 958

This table shows the difference in SEC funding over four years and is available online at :

http://www.nasa.gov/about/budget/archive_FY04_budget.html (click on "View Budget Summary Table") http://www.nasa.gov/about/budget/ (click on "Agency Summary Table")

The detailed cuts are to the Explorer line (which includes all of the SMEX and MIDEX programs), S-T Probe mission line, delays of new starts, flat funding of the sub-orbital program and associated cuts to guest investigator programs, SR&T and mission operations.

Under the President's FY 2005 budget request to Congress, the Sun-Earth Connection theme is slated to receive a reduction of 9.5 million to a proposed funding level of $746 million overall. This is a $200M (20%) cut from last year's requested SEC budget. The previous budget was consistent with the detailed planning processes of the Roadmap and Decadal Survey, the present budget derails those plans.

Full budget details are available at http://www1.nasa.gov/about/budget/. (click on "Sun-Earth Connection" for specific information)

BACKGROUND

The goal of Sun-Earth Connection Division of OSS is to "Understand the Sun, the heliosphere, and planetary environments as a single connected system."

To accomplish this goal the SEC Roadmap set forth three science objectives that were incorporated into the NASA Strategic Plan:

(1) Explore the fundamental physical processes of space plasma systems;

(2) Understand the changing flow of energy and matter throughout the Sun, heliosphere and planetary environment;

(3) Define the origins and societal impacts of variability in the Sun-Earth connection. It is recognized that in order to satisfy the NASA goal, progress must be made in each of the above science objectives. The SEC has a vital role to play in improving our understanding of the space environment and developing the scientific underpinnings of space weather.

The proposed plan recognizes the importance of the SEC Living With a Star (LWS) program, but suffers in that the effects of space weather cannot be addressed without continued scientific progress in all areas of the SEC program. In complex interconnected systems, continuous improvements in forecasting can only occur as a result of increased scientific understanding. The SEC concept of two mission lines (LWS and Solar-Terrestrial Probe) is designed to address the dual requirements for immediate improvements and sustained development.

The ability to understand the Sun, the heliosphere, the near-Earth environment as well as accurately forecast space weather has significant value for the American people and their space infrastructure. This message should be brought to the attention of legislators in defense of a robust SEC funding portfolio.

REQUESTED ACTION

AAS members -- especially SPD members -- are requested to contact both their own members of Congress and the specific key appropriations committee members listed below to request that these significant decreases, which threaten the science research necessary to continue to improve our solar predictive capability required to support the President's exploration initiative and continue a balanced program of scientific exploration, be restored at least to their FY 2004 levels. We must help members of Congress help us, and except for a few specialists, this portion of the budget is relatively hidden. A sample letter is included below after the addresses of the key appropriations committee members.

WHO TO CONTACT

Please write your own members of Congress.

Their contact information can be found by using the AAS Zip-To-It tool available at:

http://www.aas.org/policy/aas.bios.html

In addition, please contact:

Sherwood L. Boehlert, Chair (R-NY) and
Bart Gordon, Ranking Member (D-TN)
House Committee On Science
2320 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Phone: 202-225-6371
Fax: 202-226-0113

The Honorable Senator Christopher S. Bond
Senate VA-HUD-IA Appropriations Subcommittee
United States Senate
274 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510-2503
Phone: 202-224-5721
FAX: 202-224-8149

The Honorable Barbara A. Mikulski
Senate VA-HUD-IA Appropriations Subcommittee
United States Senate
709 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-2003
Phone: 202-224-4654
FAX: 202-224-8858

The Honorable James T. Walsh
House VA-HUD-IA Appropriations Subcommittee
United States House of Representatives
2369 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515-3225
Phone: 202-225-3701
FAX: 202-225-4042

The Honorable Alan B. Mollohan
House VA-HUD-IA Appropriations Subcommittee
United States House of Representatives
2302 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515-4801
Phone: 202-225-4172
FAX: 202-225-7564

SAMPLE LETTER

Dear Senator Sunspot,

President Bush has proposed a bold new space exploration initiative in order to advance U.S. scientific, security, and economic interests. The initiative is exciting and potentially very worthwhile; however, the proposed implementation has serious shortcomings for the broader space science program. The program is very expensive and would require significant new funds, but the President's plan instead calls for diverting existing funds from ongoing, critical research areas, which in addition to their intrinsic merit, are critical for the success of the exploration initiative itself. These areas have been given high priority in extensive, formal planning studies conducted by both NASA and National Academy of Science. In particular, funding for the Sun-Earth Connections (SEC) Division of NASA's Space Science Enterprise would be reduced from the planned levels by 27 % over the next 4 years. Such a reduction is entirely inconsistent with the motivations given by the President for his new initiative: science, security, and economics.

Research supported by the SEC Division is producing fundamental scientific breakthroughs, while spectacular new images of the dynamic Sun are awing the American public and inspiring the next generation of scientists. But perhaps even more importantly, great progress is being made in solving the mysteries of "space weather." Space weather refers to events on the Sun that disturb the space environment and cause numerous problems for humans and technological systems. These include the incapacitation of satellites; the disruption of communication, navigation, surveillance, and weapons guidance systems; and the downing of electrical power grids. The impacts on the economy and national security of our country are profound. In addition, human exploration of the Moon and Mars is will be jeopardized without the capability of predicting space weather, since astronauts are susceptible to harmful and even lethal doses of particle radiation when they are outside the protective shield of the Earth's magnetic field.

For these reasons, I encourage you to support the research program within NASA's Sun-Earth Connections Division. Vital progress in understanding and predicting space weather requires healthy funding for all of SEC's programs: including the Explorer line of small-to-medium-sized missions, the Solar-Terrestrial Probes line of larger missions, the sub-orbital program that helps develop new instrumentation and brings young scientists into the field and the associated research programs that fund the nearly all of scientific return on the nations investment in space research.

I want to offer my help to you and your office in any way I can. I am available to provide expert information and advice on this matter and any matter related to solar research or astronomy in general. If you would like a tour of our facilities at any point, I can work with our administration to coordinate your visit. Please do not hesitate to contact me and I hope that with your help, we can restore the funding necessary to support the valuable solar research programs. The strategic planning documents of NASA and the National Academy of Sciences can be found at http://spacescience.nasa.gov/admin/pubs/strategy/2003/index.html and http://www7.nationalacademies.org/bpa/aanm.html).

Thank you for giving this matter your serious attention.

Sincerely,


Professor Sunz E. Ruptin
Greater Western Research College of Eastern North Dakota ___________________________________________________________

[Mailed to US members from aas.org at 3:55pm 24 FEBRUARY 2004]

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