Advocating for NASA

Seabrook City Councilman Thom Kolupski talks congressional strategy with team leader Sallie Kay Janes of San Jacinto College and University of Michigan space sciences graduate student Stephanie Gowell during the Citizens for Space Exploration’s annual space funding advocacy trip in Washington. 


WASHINGTON — The eight-dozen advocates representing the Citizens for Space Exploration at Capitol Hill are preparing for a long couple of days.

The group of local elected officials, college students, space industry business representatives and Galveston County/Galveston Bay business leaders have about 350 office visits scheduled during the next two days.

The group, which includes Galveston County Judge Mark Henry, Friendswood City Councilman Steve Rockey, League City Mayor Tim Paulissen and Councilman Todd Kinsey, met Monday night to strategize.

The mission is to push for the continued funding of NASA’s space exploration missions and hold off cuts.

It’s a tough sell in this town. While many in Congress say they support manned space flight, it’s not a priority for many.

It’s always a challenge for this group to remind those who control the budget that there are benefits of space exploration in everyday life. Those walking the Hill Tuesday and Wednesday will do what they can to point out the many benefits of the U.S. space program, which has contributed to medical research and to the creation of new environmental products. 

It takes a coordinated effort to make the pitch for robust funding of NASA and its missions — including the expansion of the commercial component. There’s a command center set up at the hotel where most members of the group are staying. There’s another one set up on Capitol Hill so that those visiting with congressional staffs can get information and call in backup when needed.

David Braun, the aerospace marketing manager for the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership, has been charged with keeping everyone on message and on schedule.

There’s more going on here than the advocacy visits.

The House Science, Space and Technology subcommittee has a hearing today on “the next steps of human exploration of space,” which will likely focus on the part of NASA’s 2014 budget request that calls for the ramp-up of an asteroid mission.

That is a controversial part of the NASA mission plan. A return to the moon has been dropped from the discussion, and NASA wants to send a remote space capsule to snag an asteroid and bring it to a safe orbit near the moon for research.

The plan has gotten mixed reviews, so expect lots of hard questions from the committee.

Those answering the questions during the hearing include Louis Friedman of the Keck Institute and the former head of The Planetary Society. Also scheduled to appear before the committee are Paul Spudis, the senior staff scientist for the Lunar and Planetary Institute; Steven Squyres, a professor of astronomy at Cornell University; and Douglas Cooke, the former NASA associate administrator for exploration systems who is now an aerospace consultant. Cooke is also an adviser for the Coalition for Space Exploration.

While U.S. Rep. Randy Weber, R-Brazoria County, whose district includes Galveston County is a member of the House Science Committee, he is not a member of the space subcommittee.

However, U.S. Rep Steve Stockman, who once represented the county, is a member of the subcommittee.

The hearing will be available via a live webcast.



WHAT: U.S. House Subcommittee on Space hearing on NASA’s asteroid mission

WHEN: 1 p.m. today

WHERE TO WATCH: Go to for link to watch the live stream of the hearing.



Contact Mainland Editor T.J. Aulds at 409-683-5334 or

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