The Planetary Society steps up its campaign to save the Pluto mission by
presenting thousands of letters supporting the Pluto-Kuiper Express to
Congress on Wednesday, October 18. The Society will hand-deliver over 5000
pieces of mail each to Representative Dana Rohrabacher, Chair of the House
Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee, and Senator Bill Frist, Chair of the
Senate Science, Technology & Space Subcommittee, in Washington, DC.

The Society’s campaign to convince Congress to provide additional funds to
enable NASA to launch the Pluto mission on schedule and continue the entire
Outer Planets Program has generated thousands of messages to Congress by
mail, fax, phone and e-mail.

In September, NASA issued a stop work order to the Jet Propulsion
Laboratory for the Pluto mission. The 2004 launch, originally scheduled to
arrive in 2012, will be the last opportunity for more than a decade to take
advantage of the Jupiter gravity assist needed to reach this mysterious
outpost in our solar system.

“Pluto is the beginning of the Frontier, much like the Appalachians were to
Lewis and Clark,” said Mike Drake, Director, Lunar and Planetary
Laboratory, University of Arizona. “America must not lose the opportunity
to reach for this frontier, Pluto, the last planet in the solar system, and
thrust beyond it to the icy objects that hold the building blocks of the
solar system in deep freeze.”

The Society launched a campaign in July to urge its 100,000 members and the
interested public to take immediate action asking Congress to forestall any
attempt to cancel the mission.

Some scientists believe the thin atmosphere of Pluto will freeze to the
surface as the planet moves in its orbit further from the Sun, with the
next thaw occurring over 200 years from now, around 2230. The longer the
mission is delayed, the more likely it will be that the mission will lose
the opportunity to study Pluto’s atmosphere.

The Pluto-Kuiper Express, along with the Europa orbiter, is part of NASA’s
Outer Planets Program. NASA delayed the Europa orbiter — from a 2004
launch to 2006 or 2007 — because of technical concerns. The Europa orbiter
requires new technology for power and radiation-hard electronic components.
However, canceling the Pluto mission was more of a budgetary decision.
NASA’s budget has steadily decreased over the last eight years.

“We at The Planetary Society strongly believe that both the the Pluto
mission and the Europa orbiter can and should be launched on schedule,”
said Louis Friedman, Executive Director of The Planetary Society.
“Reasonable financial resources exist in the U.S. to fund all these
missions by giving a modest increase — say 2% — to the NASA budget.”

The Planetary Society’s campaign has demonstrated to Congress the public’s
support of this mission to complete the reconnaissance of all nine planets
in our solar system.

“The popularity of and interest in this mission might be underestimated by
NASA and the Administration,” said Friedman. “The Society urges NASA to
resume its own support of a Pluto launch in 2004.”



Attached photos depict Planetary Society staff sorting mail supporting the
Pluto mission and bagging it to deliver to Washington, DC.


For more information or to arrange interviews, please contact Susan
Lendroth at (626)793-5100 ext. 214 or by e-mail at


Carl Sagan, Bruce Murray and Louis Friedman founded The Planetary Society
in 1980 to advance the exploration of the solar system and to continue the
search for extraterrestrial life. With 100,000 members in over 140
countries, the Society is the largest space interest group in the world.

The Planetary Society

65 N. Catalina Ave.

Pasadena, CA 91106-2301

Tel: (626) 793-5100

Fax: (626) 793-5528