NASA is slated to announce deep cuts this morning, as part of the agency’s fiscal year 2013 budget. Planetary exploration is expected to take the biggest hits. Two proposed joint missions with Europeans to explore Mars in 2016 and 2018 are expected to be eliminated.
Congressman Adam Schiff of Pasadena called such potential budgetary changes “absolutely devastating,” and called into question what effect this will have on Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which leans heavily on NASA’s budget for its operating costs. In fact, during the last round of large budget cuts at NASA, JPL laid off about 240 employees as a result.
In President Obama’s proposed budget, $309 million would but cut from studying planets, a 21 percent cut. The overall budget would increase by that same amount, with most money being directed into efforts helping private firms develop their own space shuttles which would be used as taxis for astronauts to go to and from the International Space Station.
Is the American dream of reaching other planets on its last legs? Is this a smart move for NASA, or does it weaken the organization? Where should money be directed within NASA? Should it be funded at all?
Scott Hubbard, Professor, Stanford University, Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Author of “Exploring Mars: Chronicles from a Decade of Discovery” (University of Arizona Press)