House Appropriators Reject NASA's Plan for Mars Cuts

House Appropriators Reject NASA's Plan for Mars Cuts

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) issued a press release yesterday praising the decision by Rep. Frank Wolf to reject NASA’s plan to discontinue cooperating with the European Space Agency (ESA) on Mars probes intended to be launched in 2016 and 2018.

Schiff, who represents the district where the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is located, thanked Wolf for “rejecting this reprogramming request by NASA,” which he said would be a “disaster for America’s leadership in planetary science.”  Wolf chairs the House Appropriations Committee’s Commerce-Justice-Science subcommittee that funds NASA.  Schiff is a member of the subcommittee.  JPL builds many of NASA’s planetary exploration probes.

According to the Schiff press release, Wolf sent a letter to NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden last week “outlining his opposition to NASA’s reprogramming proposal until it can be properly debated.”

NASA’s decision to cut the planetary science portion of its budget by 21 percent in FY2013 is highly controversial in Congress because of the popularity of Mars exploration and of JPL, as well as the potential consequences for international cooperation in other space activities.  The planetary science community is up in arms about the potential cuts, and the head of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, John Grunsfeld, is trying to come up with an affordable plan to launch a smaller Mars probe in 2018.

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