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NASA cuts inspire 'Planetary Exploration Car Wash & Bake Sale'

National effort on Saturday to shine light on planetary plight

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Planetary scientists across the US will bring attention to NASA budget cuts on Saturday by mockingly hosting their own fundraising event: the National Planetary Exploration Car Wash & Bake Sale.

"Join us and make Congress and the American public aware of the planetary cuts and the damage they are doing!" the organizers exhort on their website.

The protest is in reponse to the squeeze in the Obama administration's 2013 NASA budget, which put the boot into planentary science in favor of the James Webb Space Telescope and preparations for future manned missions.

"Some important, but currently unaffordable missions are deferred, such as large-scale missions to study the expansion of the universe and to return samples from Mars," the narrative to that budget reads.

Translation: say goodbye to the planned 2016 Mars Trace Gas Orbiter and 2018 ExoMars missions that were under development with the European Space Agency, and say hello to an era during which planetary science takes a back seat.

NASA's 2013 budget of $17.7bn – essentially flat from this year, by the way – is miniscule in comparison to the $3.8 trillion US Federal Budget within which it sits, as well as being a rounding error in the impact on the US budget by the Bush-era tax cuts for rich people "job creators", which a Congressional Budget Office report that was updated this Thursday estimates cost the Treasury about $1.2 trillion between 2002 and 2011.

The 2013 NASA budget cuts planetary science from $1.5bn this year to $1.2bn next. That's a lot of car washes and baked goods, but with events scheduled in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Maryland, Nevada, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Utah, if the space boffins can't make a dent in their shortfall, they can at least bring some attention to their plight.

And speaking of plights, pity the poor event organizers at the Southwest Research Institute's Space Science and Engineering Division in Boulder, Colorado, where local regulations prevent both the selling of tasty baked goods without a vendor permit and the washing of sudsy car-wash runoff into storm drains.

The plucky Coloradans' solution? To do their part to help save planetary science from fading away from the nation's intellectual horizon, those never-say-die worthies will be shining shoes instead.

If you find yourself in Boulder this Saturday, by all means bring your scruffy Florsheims to the First United Methodist Church at 1421 Spruce Street. And please, tip well. ®

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