Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Joe Lieberman (D-CT) Monday sent a letter to National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Administrator Dr. Michael D. Griffin expressing concerns about the organization’s elimination from its mission statement of the phrase “to understand and protect the home planet.” In addition to its space exploration role, NASA’s stated mission has historically included scientific research devoted to better understanding planet Earth, including the impact of climate change on our planet. As a global leader in earth science research, NASA’s elimination of this role could negatively affect current efforts to better understand how the earth’s climate responds to greenhouse gas emissions.
The text of the letter sent to Dr. Griffin is included below:
Dr. Michael D. Griffin
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Washington, DC 20546
July 31, 2006
Dear Dr. Griffin,
We are writing to express our deep concern about the recent elimination of the phrase “to understand and protect our home planet” from NASA’s mission statement. At a time in which evidence grows on an almost daily basis of the potentially severe impacts of climate change, we find it inexplicable that NASA apparently no longer views protecting and understanding our home planet as a priority.
NASA’s earth science is some of the best in the world. From studies of hurricanes to the Antarctica ozone hole, from sea level rise to coral reef mapping, NASA’s earth science mission is vital to our understanding and protecting planet Earth. A NASA scientist has testified before our committee on the implications of climate change and the importance of climate change research.
We wrote to you on February 15, 2006 to express our concerns about allegations of censorship of climate science at NASA. We appreciate NASA’s response to our questions and the agency’s reaffirmation that it is “committed to open scientific and technical inquiry and dialogue with the public.” However, this commitment has little meaning if NASA subsequently alters its mission so as to scale back the very science that we strongly believe needs to be both conducted and communicated to the public.
NASA has a history of scientific excellence not only in space, but also on our own planet. While space exploration is vital, we do not believe that science on our home planet should be sacrificed in order to explore distant planets. NASA can, and should, do both.
We look forward to working with you to ensure NASA’s continued contributions to the understanding and protection of our planet.
Susan M. Collins Joseph Lieberman
United States Senator United States Senator