Status Report

DPS ALERT: NASA Outer Planets Research Cancelled; Concern for all R&A Programs

By SpaceRef Editor
January 26, 2005
Filed under ,

Dear Colleagues:

On January 24, 2005, Curt Niebur, Discipline Scientist for the Outer
Planets Research Program sent a message to PIs in that program
rescinding funding letters that had been received in early December,
because those funds had been redirected by senior management. This action
is to my knowledge without precedent in the NASA Research and Analysis
programs and is having substantial and significant negative impact on
many scientists.

The DPS is collecting impact statements from the affected PIs. These are
being posted at

NASA planetary R&A programs fund most of the planetary community, and
they are the principal sources of funding in training the next
generation of planetary scientists. These programs provide us with the
knowledge we need to form the questions we try to answer with the much
more expensive mission programs and provide the scientific
framework within which we interpret the data from those missions. Raiding
these small, but valuable programs to pay for other agency needs such as
shuttle return to flight
threatens both the present and the future of solar system exploration by
the United States.

We are gravely concerned that the zeroing of OPRP is just the
beginning of future cutbacks and zeroing of other R&A programs. We are
deeply worried it represents a fundamental lack of appreciation by senior
NASA management of the critical role these programs play in solar system

We call on you to contact your congressional representatives. Call their
Washington offices and speak to the staffers that handle
science issues. They need to know that small basic science Research and
Analysis programs are under attack at NASA in order to staunch funding
problems with far larger and completely disconnected programs such as
shuttle return to flight. They need to know that these
research programs form the foundation on which this country’s solar
system exploration program is built. Loss of funding in these
programs will result directly in the loss of planetary scientists,
particularly younger scientists, and it will take a generation to
rebuild, if we ever do.

You can find out your Senator by going to, and your
Representative by going to, or go to for
links, information, and other advice in dealing with Congress. Calling or
faxing is best; e-mail is not given as much attention.

I cannot stress how important it is at this point to simply be heard,
even if it only a phone call or short fax. There is an opportunity to get
NASA to reconsider this decision, but only if everyone acts now.

William B. McKinnon

DPS Chair

SpaceRef staff editor.