2019 Citizens for Space Exploration Congressional Visits Report (May 20-22, 2019)
The 2019 CSE Congressional visits were a success and helped advance support for human space exploration and demonstrate a large, grassroots constituency for space exploration. The 28th annual trip included 92 travelers, representing 28 states, who conducted 391 Congressional office visits. These meetings were in addition to 73 appointments with Freshmen Member offices in February. The diverse group of travelers included elected officials, 32 students studying engineering or related technical fields, industry representatives, and community leaders. Four Members of Congress made remarks at the Congressional Reception. The reception was well attended by over 50 staffers.
A few interesting statistics from our meeting feedback surveys include:
75% of House member offices were visited and 66% of Senate offices.
79% were “very engaged” in the meeting.
82 staffers had visited a NASA center.
81% were “very knowledgeable” or “somewhat knowledgeable” about NASA’s exploration programs.
84% of staffers were “very knowledgeable” or “somewhat knowledgeable” about the benefits derived from the space program – Education was mentioned in 65% of meetings, economic benefits in 51%, spinoffs in 35%, and exploration/discovery in 39%.
50% of visits were considered “highly supportive” and 36% “moderately supportive” of returning to the Moon by the mid-2020s.
41% of offices were “very supportive” and 36% “somewhat supportive” of the additional funding required to return to the Moon by the mid-2020s.
Specific concerns focused on sources funding to pay for additional NASA FY20 budget request.
Each team consisted of a leader and 2-3 other travelers, including at least one student. The teams visited Congressional offices of their home states, discussed the exploration programs, and solicited feedback from the office concerning the value and direction concerning America’s space exploration program. Teams also provided folders that included:
Citizens for Space Exploration overview document
Exploration Vehicle Chart
SLS Capabilities Chart
Op-ed by Administrator Bridenstine
NASA budget pie chart
State-specific document with NASA funds spent in that state
Explore, Pioneer, and Innovate 1 pager
Key messages included continuity for NASA human space exploration programs, robust funding for NASA’s return to the moon (Artemis), and NASA’s role in supporting American leadership, education, innovation, health care, and quality of life for less than half of one percent of the budget. Talking points also included concern about challenges to U.S. leadership in space, and the importance of restoring U.S. space launch capabilities to support human space flight.
Team members discussed their specific personal reasons for support of America’s space program. For example:
A healthy space program is important to inspire students and get them into STEM careers.
What is happening in space exploration and why it is important to the economy and to business.
NASA is an important investment and provides a wide range of spinoff benefits.
Additional reasons such as leadership, education, technological innovation and competitiveness.
Kick-Off Reception – Monday, May 20, 2019
Brian Freedman emceed the program in his role as the trip chairman. Speakers included Brent Blevins (House Science Committee), Mary Lynne Dittmar (Dittmar Associates, Executive Director, Coalition for Deep Space Exploration), Joe Mayer (CSE Chair), Brian Freedman (D.C. Trip Chair) and Kelly Page (Texas Team Coordinator). Topics covered included CSE history, Hill do’s and don’ts, a space industry update, a legislative update, and a run-through of the drop-off materials and key messages. Following the meeting, each team met, strategized and planned for the following two days of visits.
Congressional Reception – Tuesday, May 21, 2019
The Citizens for Space Exploration hosted a Congressional reception for Members of Congress and their staff. Over 50 staff attended. Congressional speakers were:
Rep. Brian Babin (R-TX-36)
Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX-18)
Rep. Trent Kelly (R-MS-1)
Rep. Randy Weber (R-TX-14)
Some key feedback received from the teams:
Members of Congress are more receptive to the 2024 lunar mission than asteroid capture.
Finding the $1.6B required in the revised PBR is going to be a challenge.
ISS extension to 2030 has broad support.
No support for substituting commercial for national exploration program.
Strong bipartisan support for NASA. There was more understanding of NASA’s space exploration programs than in previous years and support for Mars as the ultimate destination.
There were some questions surrounding specific details of the exploration program including the feasibility of the timeframe.
There was strong support for NASA to stay the course on the human space programs and apparent willingness to fund them.
Recognition of the benefits resulting from the space program including areas of STEM education, work force development and general contributions to local economies across the country (including small businesses).
Many staffers asked to be contacted when a specific vote or action was needed.