Will NASA Need More Citizen Scientists?

In a not unanticipated move, the Washington Post states that President Obama’s next budget will cut funding for certain NASA programs by as much as 20%.  reportedly, the two biggest programs hit will be the Mars and Jupiter Rovers.  Additionally, the president is planning to call for severing of the relationship between NASA and the European space agency with regard to Mars probes that were scheduled to be launched in 2016 and 2018.

Although the budget cuts have been anticipated for a long time, the reality can be a little shocking.  So how can the public help with the scientific endeavors?

There are many programs where citizen scientists can help NASA and free up money they can be used on more expensive projects such as the Jupiter and Mars rovers.  I personally know several members of the Center for solar system science, a project headed up by Robert Stephens, a Chambliss award-winning citizen scientists, who actively assists NASA in near Earth orbit objects research involving Trojan asteroids.  Along with other CS3 members like Ralph Megna, the group at CS3 has done analysis of the Vesta and Ceres asteroids to help NASA with their Dawn Mission.  Their research has been invaluable to the NASA team, and has freed up resources that can be used on other parts of the mission.

So what does it take to be a citizen scientist?  A love of science is helpful.  A thirst for knowledge.  An adventurer’s spirit.  Ralph once told me that finding a new asteroid was like being in Star Trek(r), because he is literally the first person to know something about this object.  He and other citizen scientists all around the world participate in expanding man’s knowledge about the universe and help explain it better.

In a May at at the Northwoods Resort in Big Bear California, there will be a Symposium on Telescope Science where citizen scientists can meet with professional scientist and find out where they can help.  If you can’t wait till May or are unable to attend you can still take part by becoming a member of the Society for Astronomical Sciences.

– Ex astris, scientia –