Washington, D.C. – House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) released the following statement today after the comet known as Siding Spring passed within 87,000 miles of Mars.

Chairman Smith: “The passing of Comet Siding Spring near the surface of Mars provides an unusual opportunity for us to observe a comet up close and learn about its effects on nearby planets. NASA’s Planetary Science assets – including the MAVEN spacecraft which just entered Mars’ orbit last month – are in prime positions to gather data and record this once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon. These are the events that inspire our imaginations and remind us why we must continue investing in planetary science and NASA’s primary mission of space exploration.”

Chairman Smith has consistently voiced support for robust funding of planetary science missions within NASA’s budgets. Congress recently approved funding above the president’s budget request for FY2015.