I’m pretty sure some of you guys out there are fans of Sid Meier’s Civilization series of PC strategy games, and perhaps you’ll agree with me that one of the easiest ways to win the game is to quickly develop as many of your technologies as possible, so that building military units and city buildings is quick and cheap. Because science and knowledge are the building blocks for all aspects of society. And what’s the simplest way to destroy a society? You take away its exit plan.
2013 has already been a solid year for space research, but that won’t last beyond December 31, unless the Planetary Scientists’ Rally Cry forces the government’s money hand. Earlier this month, the Obama administration released its 2014 budget, and NASA’s proposed funding is set for $17.7 billion, which is $50 million less they received in 2012. Planetary science, specifically, would be looking at $1.217 billion, which is about $268 million less funding than it received in 2013. Granted, some of that money is going into producing plutonium-238, which just started up again this year but has had its funding already shifted from the Department of Energy to NASA. There is also around $20 million going towards a manned asteroid research mission, but that’s still around $190 million of programs and research that might hit the cutting room floor, including a future robotic mission to Europa and the current Cassini and Messenger programs.
“Without immediate investment in technology and mission development — not possible under the FY14 proposal — the United States will go ‘radio dark’ in almost all regions of the solar system by the end of the decade,” wrote advocates for the Planetary Society in a testimony submitted to the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space and Technology. And then we just become the creepy hermit nation with the mountain man beard.