Mark V. Sykes Planetary Science Institute
The US solar system exploration program is supported by NASA-funded scientists at government facilities, universities, and private companies. These scientists provide basic research that defines and justifies our missions and provide the data analyses from which Americans receive the benefit of their tax-dollar investment. Their work directly advances the strategic goals of the NASA Planetary Division and strongly contributes to STEM educational efforts across the country. The research and analysis programs provide an essential component to sustaining this workforce.
National Research Council reports have long recognized these programs as fundamental to US solar system exploration efforts. The recent NRC planetary decadal survey gave them high priority, independent of the fiscal situation (the worse the fiscal climate, the more important these programs are to sustaining national capabilities in this area). Unfortunately, policy decisions by NASA leadership have resulted in selection rates for competitive proposals plummeting to historic lows with negative impact. Community testimonials are posted at: http://planetarypolicy.org/RA_REPORT_DEC12/community_feedback.pdf
Younger planetary scientists in particular face an imminent crisis in their careers. They will be lost first. Many more will follow. The consequences will be long-term.