Politics, government and public life for Southern California

JPL gets budget reprieve; money restored for planetary science

Artist's Concept of Mars 2020 Rover, Annotated

NASA/JPL-Caltech

Planning for NASA's 2020 Mars rover envisions a basic structure that capitalizes on re-using the design and engineering work done for the NASA rover Curiosity, which landed on Mars in 2012, but with new science instruments selected through competition for accomplishing different objectives with the 2020 mission.

There's been an ongoing tussle between the White House and Congress over the best use of NASA dollars, including funds for the Pasadena-based Jet Propulsion Lab.

This year, as it has since 2010, NASA shifted money from planetary science missions to Mars and Jupiter’s moon, Europa, in favor of research on heavy-lift rockets that would ferry humans on missions beyond earth’s orbit. And this year, as it has every year, Congress fought back.

Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff of Burbank says  the omnibus spending bill signed by president Obama includes $65 million for a return to Mars in 2020 and $80 million for the Europa mission. Schiff says there's bi-partisan support for planetary science and Congress wants "sufficient funding" for these missions to go forward. 

NASA’s overall budget has remained flat over the past few years, though in an era of sequestration, that’s a success story. Schiff expects another battle over robotic vs. human exploration when the White House releases its fiscal year 2015 budget.  

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