Some of the group's 700,000 members went to congressional offices last week to protest a billion-dollar shortfall in the proposed budget for fiscal year 2009. The funding falls short of levels proposed in the NASA Authorization Act of 2005. The group also said it's trying to raise awareness about a five-year gap between the retirement of the space shuttle and the first flights of the Constellation program.
"Due to the budgetary constraints NASA has been operating under for the last several years, America is facing an extended period of time where we will have no capacity to send humans into space," SEA's Rick Zucker said in a statement. "NASA will have to pay the Russians for American astronauts to fly on the Soyuz during that gap, which will only get longer if funding levels stay below authorized amounts."
Members also discussed maintaining support for NASA's robotic science missions and the importance of space exploration in addressing Earth's energy and environmental challenges. The group said that several congressional offices asked for more information about the National Security Space Office's recent study of space-based solar power systems. The study found possible sources of solar power in space.
SEA steering committee member Chris Carberry said that lobbying has proven effective in encouraging support for space exploration.
"We've already seen results with this year's presidential election, where space policy issues have received more attention than they have in decades," he said in a statement. "Now we're hoping to be able to do the same thing with Congress."
SEA stresses that NASA's mission of human and robotic space exploration can inspire young people and the public, as well as the aerospace industry, and spur the creation of businesses and jobs.