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Geoscience Policy Monthly Review: May 2013

The Monthly Review is part of a continuing effort to improve communications about the role of geoscience in policy. Current and archived monthly reviews are available online.

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  • House committee considers stepping stones to Mars

The House Subcommittee on Space held a hearing on May 21, 2013 on next steps in human space exploration. The primary goal of the hearing was to evaluate whether a human mission to the moon or to a near-earth asteroid would better prepare NASA to send humans to Mars and beyond.

In their opening remarks, representatives from both parties expressed support for continued human space exploration. Additionally, Subcommittee Chairman Steven Palazzo (R-MS) and Full Committee Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) expressed frustration at the barriers faced by NASA in developing its human exploration program, including a lack of clear directives and significant budget cuts.

Witnesses called to testify took opposing positions on the issue. Dr. Louis Friedman, co-lead of the Keck Institute for Space Studies Asteroid Retrieval Mission Study argued that suitable asteroids have already been identified and that it would be feasible to launch an asteroid-focused mission within the next five years. In the proposed mission, a robotic spacecraft would capture an asteroid and redirect it into orbit just beyond the moon where astronauts could visit it. In contrast, Dr. Paul Spudis, Senior Staff Scientist at the Lunar and Planetary Institute, reasoned that a lunar destination was preferable because the moon is the most accessible body in space, is scientifically interesting, and contains resources that would be useful to continued space exploration. “By developing the resources of the Moon,” Spudis explained, “[w]e become capability-unlimited, permitting the development of new, and as yet undreamed of capacities.”

Opening statements, witness testimonies and an archived webcast of the hearing can be found on the committee’s web site.







Monthly Review prepared by: Abby Seadler, Geoscience Policy Associate, Kimberley Corwin, 2013 AGI/AAPG Spring Intern, and Brittany Huhmann, Clinton Koch, and John Kemper 2013 AGI/AIPG Summer Interns.

Sources: AccuWeather, The American Institute of Physics, BuildStrong Coalition, Bureau of Land Management, Coalition for National Science Funding, Department of Energy, Department of the Interior,  Environment and Energy Daily, Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Federal Register, GeoOptics, Government Accountability Office, Greenwire, The Hill Blog, House of Representatives, Keck Institute for Space Studies Asteroid Retrieval Mission Study, Lunar and Planetary Institute, MIT Energy Initiative, National Academies Press, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program, National Institute of Standards and Technology, National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, National Science Foundation, Science Magazine, Thomas, U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Government Printing Office, U.S. Senate, the White House


This monthly review goes out to members of the AGI Geoscience Policy Committee, the leadership of AGI's member societies, and others as part of a continuing effort to improve communications about the role of geoscience in policy. More information on these topics can be found on the Geoscience Policy Current Issues pages. For additional information on specific policy issues, please visit the web site or contact us at or (703) 379-2480, ext. 228.


Compiled May 31, 2013