A group of California lawmakers on Wednesday asked NASA and Administrator Bill Nelson to rethink the space agency’s budget cuts that they believe will cost jobs and scientific advances.
In a letter to NASA, California’s Democratic Sens. Alex Padilla and Laphonza Butler; Democratic Reps. Adam Schiff and Judy Chu and Republican Reps. Mike Garcia and Young Kim warned the proposed funding cuts to its Mars Sample Return mission would lead the Pasadena-based Jet Propulsion Laboratory to lose “hundreds” of jobs and miss its 2030 launch window.
“This short-sighted and misguided decision by NASA will cost hundreds of jobs and a decade of lost science, and it flies in the face of Congressional authority. The 2023 Planetary Sciences Decadal Survey identified the completion of MSR as NASA’s highest scientific priority. Therefore, we are mystified by NASA’s rash decision to suggest at this stage of the appropriations process that any cuts would be necessary,” the letter said.
In July, though, a Senate committee offered $300 million in the 2024 fiscal year budget for the project when NASA asked for $949 million. The daring mission requires several vehicles. The Perseverance rover, which is already on Mars, is currently scooping up Mars soil samples. The European Space Agency would supply a “fetch” vehicle that would capture the samples and deliver the orbiting space vehicle.
The letter pointed out, though, that the House appropriation bill would fund NASA with the $949 million the space agency initially asked for. The letter also pointed to China’s growing presence in space and suggested that not pursuing the project would be a step back for the country’s space efforts.
“We look forward to working with you to complete Fiscal Year 2024 appropriations legislation that fully funds NASA – including the MSR program, promotes our national security priorities in space, and keeps the United States at the forefront of scientific and technical achievement in space,” the letter said.