Good news for two of the Institute’s core themes came from the US Congress this week. The appropriations bill for “Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies” in the House of Representatives includes the following language concerning NASA’s search for habitable planets: “The Committee recognizes that the Kepler Mission has revolutionized the pace of planet finding, suggesting that the Milky Way Galaxy is teeming with exoplanets. As a result, the Committee recommends that NASA accelerate its exoplanet program goals to discover, characterize, and eventually identify exoplanet candidates that could harbor life.”
And for solar system exploration: “The Cassini mission has discovered vast oceans of liquid hydrocarbons on Saturn’s moon Titan and a submerged salt water sea on Saturn’s moon Enceladus. The Committee directs NASA to create an Ocean World Exploration Program whose primary goal is to discover extant life on another world using a mix of Discovery, New Frontiers and flagship class missions.”
While the road to a final budget for NASA is a long one, recognition of the excitement of these science areas bodes well for the search for habitable worlds.