The House bill, the writers said, would leave “substantially underfunded” the areas of technology development, commercial spaceflight, robotic missions, and university and student research.
“These are the key elements of the president’s new plan for NASA that must be retained in any consensus solution reached by Congress and the White House,” said the letter, delivered to the office of Representative Bart Gordon, a Tennessee Democrat who leads the Committee on Science and Technology. .
The signers included David Baltimore of the California Institute of Technology, a winner of the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1975; Baruch S. Blumberg, a former director of the NASA Astrobiology Institute and a winner of the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1976; Douglas D. Osheroff of Stanford, a member of the board that investigated the loss of the space shuttle Columbia and a winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1996; and Frank Wilczek of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2004. Some former NASA officials and seven former astronauts also signed the letter.
G. Scott Hubbard, who was director of NASA’s Ames Research Center, said he and John M. Logsdon, former director of the Space Policy Institute of George Washington University, came up with the idea for the letter.
In his budget request for the 2011 fiscal year, Mr. Obama proposed canceling the Constellation program for returning astronauts to the moon, financing commercial companies for taking astronauts to the International Space Station and developing new space technologies.
A Senate version of the authorization bill, passed last month, reduced money for commercial crew and technology development to finance the development of a heavy-lift rocket. The House bill would take away almost all the money from the commercial crew program and instead offer loan guarantees.
The Commercial Spaceflight Federation, a trade group, helped coordinate the effort.