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Bill Nye’s Open Letter to Barack Obama

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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I read a post at Nature yesterday about the severe cutbacks the Planetary Sciences Division at NASA (headed by Jim Green) has had to make recently due to reduced funding. This hardly seems acceptable to me, and certainly not to Bill Nye, CEO at The Planetary Society. So he wrote a letter to Barack Obama, and then read it aloud in this video.

“Stand with the Planetary Society and with Bill. Write the President and your elected officials and tell them to #FundPlanetary HERE

You can read the full text of Bill Nye’s letter below, originally posted HERE

Bill Nye (Wikipedia)

“Mr. President,

The space program, NASA, is the best brand the United States has. Everywhere in the world, people respect and admire what NASA does. Right now, what NASA does best is explore the Solar System through the Planetary Science Program.

People around the world shared the seven minutes of terror as we lowered an extraordinary car bristling with extraordinary instruments onto the surface of Mars from a crane held aloft in that alien sky by rockets. Many thought it was impossible because nothing like it had ever been done before. You and your family remember applauding as a replica of that rover rolled by in the inaugural parade.

Over the last few years, Congress has added back funding for the planetary program that the Office of Management and Budget has cut. We all understand it’s a push and pull process–a negotiation. But planetary science deserves special attention, because it is special. It is a remarkable value in which we should maintain or even increase our investment. We recommend that planetary science receive $1.5 billion dollars a year. That’s less than 10 percent of NASA’s budget, which in turn is less than 0.5% of the federal budget.

The planetary science division of the space program accomplishes extraordinary things, because it is extraordinary. We want to look for signs of life on other worlds, places like Jupiter’s moon Europa and Saturn’s moon Enceladus. That work is done by our planetary explorers, scientists and engineers, who really are seeking signs of life on another world. Such a discovery would be astounding. It would, as so many astronomical discoveries have, change the course of human history.

Planetary exploration not only brings us astonishing discoveries from other worlds, it inherently leads to innovation, because we invest in solving problems which have never been solved before. That in turn creates new businesses and economic growth. But more importantly, supporting a robust space program raises everyone’s expectation of what’s possible. With a space program, everyone in our society comes to believe and expect that any problem we face can be solved. It’s inherently optimistic. It’s part of our national character.

So Mr. President: we strongly recommend that you make sure that funding for the planetary science program is at least $1.5 billion dollars per year. It will keep our current missions flying, ensure we create new missions, and it will lead to amazing new innovations, new businesses, and new discoveries for our future. Investing in planetary science changes the world.

Thank you.

Bill Nye
Chief Executive Officer
The Planetary Society”

Joanne Manaster About the Author: Joanne Manaster is a university level cell and molecular biology lecturer with an insatiable passion for science outreach to all ages. Enjoy her quirky videos at, on twitter @sciencegoddess and on her Facebook page at JoanneLovesScience Follow on Twitter @sciencegoddess.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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  1. 1. WarmNeutron 10:42 am 12/6/2013

    Personally I think that the discovery of life on another planet would be neither astounding nor would it really change the course of human history. The discovery of *intelligent* life, much like our own, would indeed be astounding. It’s fairly easy and plausible to see how a group of chemicals can self-assemble into self-replicating biomolecules and cells, but the path from there to what we call intelligence is far from certain.

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  2. 2. mihrant 3:57 pm 12/6/2013

    I like to say there have been three “Big Bangs”: (1) The Big Bang that created matter and the universe, (2) The second Big Bang from which life emerged, and (3) The third Big Bang from which the mind and intelligence emerged. The ultimate source of all three of these events is a mystery to science. I believe the intelligent life is a much rarer event than is currently thought. I have always liked a sub-heading I read on a Scientific American article many years ago. It said: “Either there is life out there in the universe, or there is not. Either alternative is awesome to contemplate.”

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  3. 3. Wayne Williamson 4:20 pm 12/6/2013

    I have to disagree with the other 2 posters and side with Bill on this one.
    Discovery of life(any kind) on another planet or moon or in the vacuum of space would be very significant. It would show we are not alone in a universe consisting of 100s of billions of stars in our galaxy and 100s of billions of galaxies.

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  4. 4. Dave Blalock 6:13 pm 12/7/2013

    Bill Nye’s letter to the “Mr President” sounds very lofty except he’s missing one VERY important point — objective reality. The whole political/economic system now ruling our planet is now going down the tubes and I doubt if Google or Walmart will finance his plans.


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  5. 5. rkipling 5:58 pm 12/8/2013

    Comrade Blalock,

    “You say you want a revolution
    Well, you know

    But if you go carrying pictures of chairman Mao
    You ain’t going to make it with anyone anyhow”

    Link to this
  6. 6. rroto1 6:13 pm 12/12/2013

    The US is intent on paying people not to work.
    NASA funding should be increased every year. But this funding would put people to work.

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  7. 7. llirbo 3:29 pm 12/17/2013


    A revolution is not necessarily a communist venture, don’t you know?

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