Tuesday, February 14, 2012

NASA’s Mars program will be hurt by 2013 budget

NASA announced Monday a $17.7 billion budget request for fiscal year 2013, which is a five percent reduction from the $18.7 billion that President Barack Obama originally requested for the space agency for 2013 in a budget he sent to Congress in February 2011. NASA's budget request crushes the space agency's planetary science division, which is responsible for the Mars program.

"Following a thorough management and technical review," President Barack Obama's NASA budget reads, "the Budget funds the James Webb Space Telescope, the successor to the Hubble, to enable a launch later this decade."

However, the NASA budget spells disaster for the Mars program. "Some important, but currently unaffordable missions are deferred, such as large-scale missions to study the expansion of the universe and to return samples from Mars," Mr. Obama's NASA budget explains.

Back in November, Mars scientist Steve Squyres told the House space subcommittee that NASA's work is extremely important. "The ability to carry out the most challenging tasks in deep space exploration is one of our nation's great scientific and technical crown jewels," Mr. Squyres said, according to MSNBC. "If we give up that capability, then we do a disservice not just to ourselves, but future generations of American scientists, engineers and explorers," Mr. Squyres added.

The NASA budget will support an "ambitious program of space exploration that will build on new technologies and proven capabilities to expand America's reach into the solar system," the space agency posited in a press release.

Mixed reactions to NASA budget

After NASA released its 2013 budget, Bill Nye slammed the budget cuts as "devastating to planetary science." Mr. Nye, the CEO of The Planetary Society and host of "Bill Nye the Science Guy," expressed his frustration in a statement obtained by Fox News.

"Science is the part of NASA that's actually conducting interesting and scientifically important missions," Mr. Nye argued. "Spacecraft sent to Mars, Saturn, Mercury, the Moon, comets, and asteroids have been making incredible discoveries, with more to come from recent launches to Jupiter, the Moon, and Mars," Mr. Nye added.

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