376/95/23/2. Those numbers don’t have much significance in their stand-alone configuration. However, when 95 travelers from 23 states make 376 scheduled congressional office visits over just 2 days, those numbers become rather amazing.
A ‘road trip’ like no other
From May 19-21, 2015, Citizens for Space Exploration completed the group’s 24th annual trip to Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., to advance support for human space exploration and to demonstrate the existence of a large, grassroots constituency for space exploration. The 376 scheduled visits set the all-time record in the number of actual office visits. The diverse group of travelers included 32 university students majoring in engineering or related technical fields of study, industry representatives, community leaders, and elected officials. The local elected officials were: League City Mayor Tim Paulissen, Houston Council Member Dave Martin, Nassau Bay Council Member Jonathan Amdur, Friendswood Council Member Dr. Pat McGinnis, and Seabrook Council Member Robert Llorente.
Congressional Reception held
The Citizens for Space Exploration hosted a Congressional Reception for members of Congress and their staff. Eight congressional members spoke at the reception, and approximately 50 staff from both congressional offices and committees attended. Congressional speakers were Roger Wicker (R-MS-Sen), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX-18), John Culberson (R-TX-7), Pete Olson (R-TX-22), Mo Brooks (R-AL-5), Steven Palazzo (R-MS-4), Dr. Brian Babin (R-TX-36), and Randy Weber (R-TX-14).
Feedback received from meetings
Some key takeaways, based on feedback received from the travelers, were:• There is strong bipartisan support for NASA. There was more understanding of NASA’s space exploration programs than in previous years. • There was recognition of the benefits resulting from the space program including areas of STEM education, workforce development and general contributions to local economies across the country.• There is continued interest in NASA’s commercial crew and cargo efforts in low earth orbit and the associated companies. • It was generally agreed that Mars was the ultimate destination for human exploration; a definitive preference for lunar vs. asteroid mission options was not stated for accomplishing this long-term objective.• The budget is always a challenge.• There was recognition of the importance of the Space Launch System and Orion to support deep-space exploration.• Many staffers asked to be contacted when a specific vote or action is needed.
Making the case for NASA
The Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership is the home of Citizens for Space Exploration Texas. BAHEP President Bob Mitchell stated, "The value of these ‘sit-down’ visits is significant. Although there is considerable support in Congress for NASA, we are told year after year that NASA and the aerospace industry will have to continuously make the case for the value of human spaceflight. As long as NASA, Citizens for Space Exploration, and BAHEP exist, we will keep doing just that.”
The Citizens for Space Exploration travelers are pictured in Washington, D.C., on their 24th annual trip to Capitol Hill in support of human space exploration. The group includes NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, shown just to the left of the traveler holding the plaque. The plaque renames BAHEP's conference room the David Braun Conference Room. As BAHEP’s aerospace marketing manager, Braun was instrumental in organizing the annual trip to Washington for 10 years before his passing in February 2015.