Last week I looked at our budget for Astrosphere (the non-profit that supports 365 Days of Astronomy, and along with SIUE Astronomy Cast, and CosmoQuest) and realized we have about 2 months operating costs in the bank. Last month I found out a grant I needed (but never had good odds of getting) was rejected, effecting how I’ll continue to fund my team building citizen science projects and educational resources at SIUE. 5 months ago NASA canceled the grant lines I rely on.
This all adds up to something I’ve mentioned several times in talks: NASA cut backs could cut me, and deeply hurt my team unless I find other means of funding us. With the National Science Foundation also cutting back… The traditional funding mechanisms aren’t a modern day solution.
I’m not the only one to realize that there is a problem, and I’m proud to say that people I deeply respect are working hard to define a solution for all of us who are struggling to keep space science not just growing, but thriving in this economic drought.
This morning, a new Indiegogo campaign was launched by a group of folks who want to create a new set of projects that are marketed to directly fund space exploration, space research, and space education. Called Uwingu, this new project wants to help bridge the space industry into the future by providing alternative funding sources that keep researchers going when NASA resources run dry. I’ve been helping this campaign on the tech side, and have seen their plans. Put simply: They have an awesome, commercially viable business plan that they will implement and then use a large portion of the proceeds from that business plan to fund folks working in the space industry through competitive grants.
The team is really impressive: Alan Stern, Geoff Marcy, David Grinspoon, Andy Chaikin, Emily CoBabe-Ammann… These are folks who have dedicated their careers to many different aspects of space science and who together have a big picture understanding of NASA, and why going to congress and asking for the NASA budget to be increased isn’t a fast enough solution for helping all the folks – folks like me – who aren’t sure how they’re going to keep going into the budget year.
Their ideas are so elegant that I can’t believe they haven’t already been done, and because it would take about a week for someone with very modest venture capitol (that part they are missing) to implement the idea … well… This is where the campaign is asking for your trust and your donations to allow us to setup a new model for funding space, but we can’t give you the details, because if we do the idea is going to get built by someone else and the profit will go somewhere other than to researchers.
I’m doing what I can to help them by lending them my voice and my social media / tech expertise to help their campaign succeed.
Can you help too? Can you contribute at just the $10 level and become part of a first wave of space exploration backers who help us continue to push out into our solar system and beyond.
P.S. The solution above is the “Teach a man to fish” long-term solution. If you have the extra resources to “Give a man a fish” so he isn’t hungry while he learns, please also consider donating to Astrosphere New Media and helping me feed my staff (they do like fish) as we work to continue to produce podcasts and Google Hangouts on Air to feed your minds. If you’d rather support our citizen science and formal education initiatives, please consider donating to CosmoQuest via SIUE.