Let’s say you really care about the American space program. You want the United States to return to the Moon, go to Mars, and maybe capture an asteroid. You hope we might put a submarine in Europa’s subsurface ocean or possibly deploy aerostats above Venus’s acid clouds. Oh, and don’t forget about the James Webb Space Telescope!
Let’s say space exploration is a top priority for you. In fact, let’s say it is your #1 political issue. So how should you vote?
On Monday, I made the argument that Republicans are generally more pro-NASA than Democrats. But that doesn’t mean we, as space enthusiasts, have to vote Republican (thank goodness, especially this year). In fact, Republicans tend to set goals for NASA that sound exciting but are perhaps a little too ambitious; you could argue that Republicans just set NASA up to fail. Meanwhile Democrats don’t seem to object to space exploration, but they’d prefer to spend federal dollars elsewhere.
This puts us space policy voters in an awkward position. What do you do when you care about a political issue but that issue doesn’t fit neatly into either the Republican or Democratic camps?
One option is to join an advocacy group (also known as a special interest group). Here are three influential organizations that lobby Congress in support of space exploration:
- The Mars Society: The Mars Society is focused on one and only one goal: colonizing Mars. Specifically, they advocate for the Mars Direct plan developed by Robert Zubrin. Under that plan, either NASA or a partnership between NASA and foreign space agencies would establish a small outpost on Mars within ten years. Subsequent missions would then expand that outpost into a full-fledged colony. Click here for more on the Mars Society.
- The National Space Society: The National Space Society, or N.S.S., supports human settlement all across the Solar System, not just on Mars. Their plans include the Moon, Mars, orbital space stations, the asteroid belt… basically they want humans to set up shop wherever possible. Click here for more on the N.S.S.
- The Planetary Society: The Planetary Society has some pretty big names behind it. It was founded by Carl Sagan and is currently headed by Bill Nye the Science Guy. They’re more focused on robotic space exploration than human space flight, and they’ve done a pretty respectable job convincing Congress to not slash NASA’s planetary science budget (or at least not slash it by too much). Click here for more about the Planetary Society.
Obviously joining any of these groups costs money, but you don’t have to spend zillions of dollars. Small contributions can make a surprisingly big difference for these kinds of organizations.
I just recently rejoined the Planetary Society after letting my membership lapse for a few years. I don’t have much money to spare, but I care enough about space exploration that I want to support it where I can. Also, their quarterly magazine is pretty informative.
I think many people get frustrated with American politics because some issues (like space policy) just don’t seem to fit into the two-party system. So if there’s a political cause you care about, especially if it’s not clearly identifiable as a Democrat issue or a Republican issue, consider joining an advocacy group. Voting is not the only way you can make your voice heard.