The PJ Tatler

House Science Committee Wants More Planets

Apparently there isn’t enough intelligent life on Planet Congress.

Today the House Science, Space and Technology Subcommittees on Space and Research explored current efforts to search for life-sustaining planets.

“The search for exoplanets and Earth-like planets is a relatively new but inspiring area of space exploration. Scientists are discovering new kinds of solar systems in our own galaxy that we never knew existed,” said Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas). “In the universe, is there another place like home? Because of NASA’s Kepler mission, we know the likely answer is yes. Imagine how the discovery of life outside our solar system would alter our priorities for space exploration and how we view our place in the universe.”

Witnesses discussed the recent discovery by NASA’s Kepler space telescope of three super-Earth sized planets in the “habitable zone,” the range of distance from a star where the surface temperature of an orbiting planet might be suitable for liquid water.

“Scientists do not know whether life could exist on the newfound planets, but their discovery signals we are another step closer to finding a world similar to Earth around a star like our sun,” NASA said in an April 18 press release.

Witnesses talked about coordinating government and external partner research to use both space- and ground-based telescopes to help categorize and characterize candidate planets.

“As we strive to do more with less, I hope we will get a better understanding of how exoplanet research should adapt to the fiscal realities we face today. Is the current portfolio of missions and research still the ideal path under constrained budgets?” said Space Subcommittee Chairman Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.). “How can we build upon recent inspirational discoveries in the most efficient manner? These are key questions we must answer as we work to draft a NASA Authorization Bill and a Reauthorization of COMPETES Act.”