NASA cuts education outreach programs

Wednesday , March 27, 2013 - 9:13 AM

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Josh Hicks

WASHINGTON — NASA has suspended educational and public-outreach activities as part of its budget-cutting efforts.

A memo issued to employees Friday said the agency was halting all activities “whose goal is to reach out to external and internal stakeholders and the public concerning NASA, its programs, and activities.”

That includes permanent and traveling exhibits, workshops and many speeches and appearances, the memo said.

The internal memo said: “Effective immediately, all education and public outreach activities should be suspended, pending further review. In terms of scope, this includes all public engagement and outreach events, programs, activities, and products developed and implemented by Headquarters, Mission Directorates, and Centers across the Agency, including all education and public outreach efforts conducted by programs and projects.”

The cuts are part of the government-wide budget reductions that began March 1.

Last week, Congress approved a fiscal 2013 spending plan that provides NASA with about $1.2 billion less than it received last year. The measure awaits President Barack Obama’s signature.

The bill provides some other federal agencies with greater spending flexibility and, in some cases, increased funding, including the Defense, Justice and Agriculture departments.

On Thursday, NASA played host to an online Google+ Hangout in Spanish as part of its Science4Girls initiative, which coincided with National Women’s History Month. Participants learned about the life and career of two prominent Hispanic women at NASA.

Also on Thursday, the agency invited the news media to tour the world’s second-largest vacuum chamber, at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.

NASA spokesman Bob Jacobs said the online hangout and the media tour would have been exempt from the suspension announced Friday since they are mission-related and low- to no-cost.

Jacobs said NASA has not yet canceled any activities, but he added that the agency is being “prudent in reviewing public outreach expenditures.”

“You do not lose $1 billion and not feel the impact,” he said. “People both inside and outside the agency should understand the sequester is real and projects and programs are going to feel the effects.”

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