Recent congressional hearings on the NASA fiscal year 2013 budget request have revealed a flawed and dangerous hypothesis by some members of Congress — that NASA’s Commercial Crew Program has robbed funding from its planetary exploration efforts.

This conclusion is factually flawed. This can be seen from the fact that the fiscal 2013 budget request for commercial crew is no higher than the 2013 request made last year as a part of the Obama administration’s fiscal 2012 five-year NASA budget projection — before this year’s significant and misguided cuts to planetary exploration.

What’s worse in this hypothesis and suggestions of cuts to the Commercial Crew Program is that commercial crew is a friend of science. Why? Because it enables more international space station (ISS) research, because it reduces the cost of ISS access (thereby removing a threat to NASA’s other science budgets), and because it opens a budget wedge for human exploration of asteroids, the Moon and Mars that will have tremendous positive value to planetary exploration.

We hope that congressional appropriators — both members and staffers — will come to agree with us that cuts to commercial crew would be damaging to both science and human exploration at NASA, and would be the wrong way to restore NASA’s planetary exploration budget.

S. Alan Stern, former NASA associate administrator for science, planetary scientist

Steven Collicott, microgravity researcher, Purdue University

Daniel Durda, planetary scientist, Southwest Research Institute

Louis Friedman, former executive director, the Planetary Society

Owen Garriott, former NASA Skylab, international space station and shuttle astronaut

Gerald D. Griffin, former director, NASA Johnson Space Center

Dale Ketcham, director, Spaceport Research & Technology Institute

Howard G. Levine, president, American Society for Gravitational and Space Biology

John Logsdon, founder, Space Policy Institute, George Washington University

John Pojman, microgravity researcher, Louisiana State University

Alan Stern is a planetary scientist and the chief executive of Golden Spike. He is a former associate administrator in charge of all of NASA’s science efforts, and he serves as the chairman of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation’s Suborbital Applications...