Lawmakers announce caucus focused on space and planetary science

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Two lawmakers on Wednesday announced a newly relaunched group in Congress that will focus on issues related to planetary science and space exploration.

The bipartisan Planetary Science Caucus is being led by Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif., and Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb. The group aims to advance policies and promote federal investment in space science, which the caucus said is “critical to our economy, national security, and American leadership in science and technology.”

The Planetary Science Caucus, which was initially formed in 2018 but was later abandoned in 2021, listed several key goals:

  • Support government agencies, commercial partners, academic institutions and nonprofits in the research and exploration of space
  • Bolster efforts by space organizations to find, track, characterize and mitigate the threat of potentially hazardous near-Earth objects
  • Facilitate the search for life in our solar system and beyond, answering the fundamental question: Are we alone in the universe?
  • Raise awareness of the economic benefits of federal investments in space science, technology development and STEM education

“For millennia, humans have observed the cosmos and incorporated their bountiful lessons here on Earth, and I’m ecstatic to continue this proud tradition in the halls of Congress by working with Rep. Bacon to launch the Planetary Science Caucus,” Chu said in a statement.

The lawmakers will have their hands full, as several major NASA endeavors, including the agency’s Artemis program to return astronauts to the moon and a planned sample return mission to Mars, have come under budgetary scrutiny.

The caucus will also support the country’s commercial space industry, which has seen huge advancements over the past decade and is expected to continue growing. Globally, the space economy grew to $546 billion in 2022, an 8% increase from the prior year, according to the Space Foundation, a Colorado-based nonprofit advocacy group.

A new space race has also emerged, with China, Russia, India and other nations planning missions to the moon to gather samples, explore the terrain and, in some cases, establish more permanent bases on the lunar surface.

Bacon said enthusiasm for planetary science builds on “giant historic leaps forward” over the past century.

 “As the future continues to unfold before us, we owe a duty to our children, our grandchildren, and their descendants to drive our innovation by prioritizing exploration,” he said in a statement. “There is no greater exploration than the final frontier.”

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