NASA Budget Cuts in Fiscal Year 2013 will force NASA to kill participation in the joint ESA/NASA collaboration to send two Astrobiology related missions to orbit and land rovers on Mars in 2016 and 2018 - designed to search for evidence of Life.  Russia will likely replace the deleted Americans.

Budget Axe to Gore America’s Future Exploration of Mars and Search for Martian Life

11 Feb , 2012 by

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America’s hugely successful Mars Exploration program is apparently about to be gutted by Obama Administration officials wielding a hefty budget axe in Washington, D.C. Consequently, Russia has been invited to join the program to replace American science instruments and rockets being scrapped.

NASA’s Fiscal 2013 Budget is due to be announced on Monday, February 13 and its widely reported that the Mars science mission budget will be cut nearly in half as part of a significant decline in funding for NASA’s Planetary Science Division.

The proposed deep slash to the Mars exploration budget would kill NASA’s participation in two new missions dubbed “ExoMars” set to launch in 2016 and 2018 as a joint collaboration with the European Space Agency (ESA).

The ESA/NASA partnership would have dispatched the Trace Gas Orbiter to the Red Planet in 2016 to search for atmospheric methane, a potential signature for microbial life, and an advanced Astrobiology rover to drill deeper into the surface in 2018. These ambitious missions had the best chance yet to determine if Life ever evolved on Mars.

The 2016 and 2018 ExoMars probes were designed to look for evidence of life on Mars and set the stage for follow on missions to retrieve the first ever soil samples from the Red Planet’s surface and eventually land humans on Mars.

Joint ESA/NASA ExoMars Exploration Missions - Planned 2016 Orbiter and 2018 Rover. NASA participation will be scrapped due to slashed NASA funding by the Obama Admnistartion. Credit: ESA


The proposed Mars budget cuts will obliterate these top priority science goals for NASA.

The BBC reports that “ a public announcement by NASA of its withdrawal from the ExoMars program will probably come once President Obama’s 2013 Federal Budget Request is submitted.”

A Feb. 9 article in ScienceInsider, a publication of the journal Science, states that “President Barack Obama will propose a $300 million cut in NASA’s planetary science programs as part of his 2013 request for the agency.”

This would amount to a 20% cut from $1.5 Billion in 2012 to $1.2 Billion in 2013. The bulk of that reduction is aimed squarely at purposefully eliminating the ExoMars program. And further deep cuts are planned in coming years !

ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter would search for atmospheric methane at Mars. NASA instruments to be deleted as a result of budget cuts. Credit: ESA


The Mars budget of about $580 million this year would be radically reduced by over $200 million, thereby necessitating the end of NASA’s participation in ExoMars. These cuts will have a devastating impact on American scientists and engineers working on Mars missions.

The fallout from the looming science funding cuts also caused one longtime and top NASA manager to resign.

According to ScienceInsider, Ed Weiler, NASA’s science mission chief, says he “quit NASA Over Cuts to Mars Program.”

“The Mars program is one of the crown jewels of NASA,” said Ed Weiler to ScienceInsider.

“In what irrational, Homer Simpson world would we single it out for disproportionate cuts?”

“This is not about the science mission directorate, this is not even about NASA. This is about the country. We are the only country in the world that has demonstrated the capability to land anything on Mars. How can we allow that to be undermined?”

Weiler’s resignation from NASA on Sept. 30, 2011 was sudden and quick, virtually from one day to the next. And it came shortly after the successful launch of NASA’s GRAIL lunar probes, when I spoke to Weiler about Mars and NASA’s Planetary Science missions and the gloomy future outlook. Read my earlier Universe Today story about Weiler’s retirement.

Ed Weiler was the Associate Administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD) and his distinguished career spanned almost 33 years.

The dire wrangling over NASA’s 2013 budget has been ongoing for many months and some of the funding reductions had already leaked out. For example NASA had already notified ESA that the US could not provide funding for the Atlas V launchers in 2016 and 2018. Furthermore, Weiler and other NASA managers told me the 2018 mission was de-scoped from two surface rovers down to just one to try and save the Mars mission program.

ESA is now inviting Russian participation to replace the total American pullout, which will devastate the future of Red Planet science in the US. American scientists and science instruments would be deleted from the 2016 and 2018 ExoMars missions.

The only approved US mission to Mars is the MAVEN orbiter due to blastoff in 2013 – and there are NO cameras aboard MAVEN.

Three Generations of US Mars Rovers - 4th Generation ExoMars rover to be Axed by NASA budget cuts.

NASA is caught in an inescapable squeeze between rising costs for ongoing and ambitious new missions and an extremely tough Federal budget environment with politicians of both political affiliations looking to cut what they can to rein in the deficit, no matter the consequences of “killing the goose that laid the golden egg”.

NASA Watch Editor Keith Cowing wrote; “Details of the FY 2013 NASA budget are starting to trickle out. One of the most prominent changes will be the substantial cut to planetary science at SMD [NASA’s Science Mission Directorate]. At the same time, the agency has to eat $1 billion in Webb telescope overruns – half of which will come out of SMD.”

The cost of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has skyrocketed to $8.7 Billion.

To pay for JWST, NASA is being forced to gut the Mars program and other science missions funded by the same Science Mission Directorate that in the past and present has stirred the public with a mindboggling payoff of astounding science results from many missions that completely reshaped our concept of humankinds place in the Universe.

Meanwhile, China’s space program is rapidly expanding and employing more and more people. China’s scientific and technological prowess and patent applications are increasing and contributing to their fast growing economy as American breakthroughs and capabilities are diminishing.

Under the budget cutting scenario of no vision, the Curiosity Mars Science Laboratory rover will be America’s last Mars rover for a long, long time. Curiosity will thus be the third and last generation of US Mars rovers – 4th generation to be Axed !

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Ivan3man_At_Large
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Ivan3man_At_Large
February 11, 2012 1:03 AM

Warship Costs.

Make of that what you will.

Zephyr
Member
February 11, 2012 1:19 AM
Obama is committing political suicide. If the Democrats Hold up a leader that drags his nation back into the dark ages, the republicans are gonna eat him up. He would want to feed cloth and house the worlds poor with that money. Technological regression is not a policy to feel confident about. America has a space industry because the allies won world war 2, There is a responsibility to the Alliance to collective maintain the ethics and superiority of that victory, that is why America has a space program. As the mother of global economics America is well positioned to reshape a global economy that Feed Cloths and Houses the worlds poor, the information revolution is only accessible… Read more »
Jeff
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Jeff
February 11, 2012 1:43 AM

Getting really tired of Obama talking up “shovel ready” solutions for the economy. Wish he would get his head out of the 1940’s and into the 2010’s; if we want America to recover *meaningful* jobs, and continue to be a world leader in technology, what we need are exactly the kinds of jobs he’s cutting here. Why can’t this administration see that? Instead of giving trillions to failed financial institutions, they should invest even 10% of that kind of money in *expanding* the space program.

Mark Clare
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Mark Clare
February 11, 2012 1:49 AM

Can’t send things to space when you need to spend all your money on weapons to kill brown people

Checkers Crossfox
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Checkers Crossfox
February 10, 2012 9:51 PM

You beat me to it. Too busy funnelling public money into private hands to worry about anything as trivial as Mars I guess.

Luke
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Luke
February 11, 2012 3:19 AM
That’s bull. The option isn’t national security or scientific advancement. How about scientific advancement is #1 and paying for that crucial portion of our country’s future comes from many areas? Especially from cutting out the bloated bureaucracy Bobama is building up. Let the American scientists work on a more positive future for all of us! American technology is the sead to our growing, not a burdon that we can just discpense with… We can’t just wish that one day prosperity might grow here. Maybe one day our kids will grow up to want to learn a trade (and maybe become scientists) instead of learn to game the handout system being created that moves debt around from class to… Read more »
Corrie Engelbrecht
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Corrie Engelbrecht
February 12, 2012 9:58 PM

Unfortunately, Luke, if you have 10 apples, and use 11 of them to make war, then you basically have to cut science programs.

Denver
Member
Denver
February 12, 2012 11:00 PM

Be clear.

DoD cost ~1/4 of the budget.

The rest is either interest on the debt, or welfare, including Social Security.

In fairness, you might also mention that a fair amount of the DoD budget pays for good science.

Corrie Engelbrecht
Guest
Corrie Engelbrecht
February 12, 2012 11:45 PM

2011 Budget alone: “defense” = 23%, but science = 0.56%

That’s already clear, I would say.

If you want to think a little more: why not spend the 23% on science as well? It’s infinitely more important than the “war on terror”.

Your comments about corporate beneficiaries to government contracts apply to all sectors of government. In all fairness.

aerandir
Member
February 11, 2012 5:59 AM

Obama did make cuts to the defense budget too. But I fully agree, the imbalance between defense spending and civil space science/tech spending in America is abhorrent to say the least.

Space needs to be publicized more, the average Joe doesn’t feel any promise or care about anything in space. Space just seems to be one big massive PR failure these days. Its really frustrating though when NASA’s direction gets swung around like an erratic compass every time a new president gets sworn in.

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous
February 11, 2012 2:02 PM

Eh? “brown people” ?

Brown by choice or people being staining by the mud thrown at them?

Are you really referring to terrorists with dubious ideologies or those who are not the same skin colour as you? (The latter real hope not!)

Mark Clare
Guest
Mark Clare
February 12, 2012 1:49 AM
I’m not sure what you are asking me, but to be clear I am talking about the fact that the US defense budget is more than all other countries in the world combined, buying ridiculously expensive weapons so you can wage war on innocent people in middle eastern countries. If you are implying by your comment that all middle easterners are “terrorists with dubious ideologies” then you are buying into the retarded american propaganda machine and there is nothing I can do to help you except offer you this advice: Turn your TV off, not just today or tomorrow, FOREVER, and stop listening to things politicians tell you! If a politician is taking time out of his day… Read more »
Anonymous
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Anonymous
February 12, 2012 5:04 AM

“With the very obvious exception of…Ron Paul 2012!!! ”

Ron isn’t supportive of NASA either, you know…

http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=27507.0

…though he is at least supportive of commercial space.

Torbjorn Larsson OM
Member
Torbjorn Larsson OM
February 12, 2012 4:55 PM

You took SJStar’s latter option, sort of, which would imply racism I take it.

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous
February 12, 2012 6:35 PM

Yeah. Open racism, exactly as I thought too, and even 15 other people liked it! (Tried to be subtle, and you see a reply that is even more confusion.)

SteveZodiac
Member
SteveZodiac
February 11, 2012 4:32 PM
Let’s face it the original rich funding for the US space race was to ensure the USSR didn’t have a strategic advantage. Much as I wish it wasn’t so the space exporation fraternity merely reaped the benefits of military fears and now they have faded it has taken a while but so has the budget. If certain countries try to acquire space based nuclear weapons then you can guarantee a resurgence but depressingly, unless a truly dire shortage of terrestrial raw materials occurs, I can’t see a way past the cost accountants’ view that space exporation is a luxury the US can’t afford. European government agencies have an inertia all of their own, even when spending vast sums… Read more »
Anonymous
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Anonymous
February 11, 2012 6:01 PM

“ESA programs are probably not so vulnerable…”

No the ESA countries are far MORE than the USA.

wjwbudro
Member
wjwbudro
February 11, 2012 8:12 PM

What motivation? I dare say the answer is too elusive.

David Mccue
Guest
February 12, 2012 5:31 AM

Take a look:

http://www8.georgetown.edu/centers/cndls/applications/postertool/index.cfm?fuseaction=poster.display&posterID=1372

http://www.thestar.com/business/article/1028102–a-new-high-for-piracy-in-china-entire-fake-apple-stores


http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-11424183

http://rt.com/politics/scandal-erupts-sacks-petersburg-011/

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/medvedev-proposes-putin-for-president-in-2012-2360342.html (WOW)

There is much more…. Russia and China are as bent as it comes. China is trying to bankrupt the west, while Russia is just full of corrupt poltiicans, Medvedev tried to put things right, but in the end he was just a puppet of Putin and was soon put in his place.

David Mccue
Guest
February 12, 2012 4:43 AM

Youve been reading too much http://www.presstv.ir/

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous
February 12, 2012 4:57 AM

Irrelevant. We went to the Moon at the height of the Vietnam War and Cold War. It isn’t that war is too important to most people, it’s that space generally isn’t important *enough* to them.

NASA would not see one more dime in the absence of those conflicts, and has to justify itself no matter what we may or may not be doing elsewhere. Lamenting ‘If only we weren’t doing X’ gets us nowhere…

Lawrence B. Crowell
Member
Lawrence B. Crowell
February 12, 2012 6:51 PM

The best commentary about bombing brown people:

LC

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous
February 11, 2012 1:54 AM

Obama has little choice.

Bottom line. Either he fixes the US economy or he will lose the upcoming election.

The fantasy of the “golden egg” says it all, which is now mostly owned by foreign investors or by financial loans made to the US by China, etc. In the end, the blame falls squarely on the Americans, who have mismanaged and squandered their economic potential for far too long. To reemerge and avoid economic catastrophe, like defaulting on their loans, there is only one solution — austerity.

Mars will have to wait just a bit longer.

hypernova
Member
hypernova
February 11, 2012 2:25 AM

I don’t think that’s right. NASA is a small fraction of the budget, you’re not going to fix the economy that way. Also, Obama, or any other one person cannot fix the economy. I think he knows that.

Eric E
Member
Eric E
February 11, 2012 4:12 AM

I agree, Ivan.

What’s NASA now.. about .02% of federal?

Olaf
Member
Olaf
February 11, 2012 12:29 PM

“Mars will have to wait just a bit longer. ”

The other countries are not waiting, the US will have a hard time to catch them up.

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous
February 11, 2012 1:52 PM
Slightly disappointed with the responses here, though I thought it would be something like I’d expect from average Americans. My quite open point is not that one program over another program that should be ended, but the spending cuts should be across the board on all public programs. Perhaps these Mars expedition should not be curbed, yet that would mean cuts in other government areas would have to be cut deeper. You have a choice, but the time to act is now and not just put it off for another day. Let’s deal with the facts not the hype. The Congressional Budget Office Director, Douglas Elmendorf on 2nd February 2012 said: “How much and how quickly the deficit… Read more »
Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous
February 13, 2012 11:47 PM

There’s so much waste in government. No, I’m not talking of programs to help the poor and the otherwise needy (those are as infinitely important) but corporate welfare, low tax rates on the wealthy, government duplicity, a bloated defense budget, an overblown empire of military bases, waste in the form of lack of preventative healthcare, administrative costs from the current managed-care system, and a thousand other factors which add up to almost a trillion dollars, if not more. A small amount of that money could be invested in space, with which our scientific research AND human advancement could forge full speed ahead and not wait for political bickering.

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous
February 11, 2012 5:01 AM

Too bad it wasn’t Republican budget cuts. Then you would surely blame those science-fearing Republicans. But hey, it seems like the Democrats in the Senate have just about given up on forming a budget of their own and are content with just giving the money to Obama in appropriation bills and letting him decide which NASA programs get axed.

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous
February 11, 2012 5:19 AM

The one good thing that will come out of this is that when/if the ESA/Russia ExoMars program finds evidence of life on Mars, we’ll have a new space race on our hands. God forbid we let the Russians beat us in anything…

M Peter Selman
Guest
February 11, 2012 5:36 AM

It may just create enough backlash and raise attention in congress to actually increase funding for the program. The last time Obama asked for x amount for Commercial space, congress gave half as much funding as requested. Is this reverse psychology, here????

HeadAroundU
Guest
HeadAroundU
February 11, 2012 7:49 AM

That would suck for the USA if ESA and Russia discovered life. But, the future is not that bleak if you end wars. Obama is doing a great job, things for the future, but some missions are going to suffer now.

Ethan Walker
Guest
Ethan Walker
February 11, 2012 6:49 PM

That would suck for the USA if ESA and Russia discovered life.

Why? Because it would be one of the most amazing discoveries in the history of science, and NASA’s mars budget would probably go up by an order of magnitude for further study? Science is not a zero sum game, I wish whoever is willing to look the best of luck.

HeadAroundU
Guest
HeadAroundU
February 13, 2012 10:50 AM

Why? The answer is simple. Because you dominate Mars and maybe someone else is going to eat the cherry on the cake.

Tony Power
Guest
Tony Power
February 11, 2012 9:11 AM

May as well cut NASA’s budget all together. Right now its not even a paper tiger.

Sky Gazer
Member
Sky Gazer
February 11, 2012 11:58 AM

If you want the funding stop electing Republican members to Congress and give him someone whom he can work with.
Stop whining and act!

Jim Tomney
Guest
February 11, 2012 1:23 PM

It’s sad to see worthy initiatives get tabled but it’s an economic reality. Sadder still is the coarsening of the rhetoric on both political sides displayed in the comments here. We’re going to be bickering as we go over the edge at which point there will likely be no space program whatsoever.

Torbjorn Larsson OM
Member
Torbjorn Larsson OM
February 11, 2012 7:22 PM

“No space program” is unlikely, especially since and even so the chinese et cetera continues.

Simon Donaldson
Guest
Simon Donaldson
February 11, 2012 4:38 PM
It’s a shame, but, learning about life on other planets – for the human race, is it NECESSARY? Can microscopic Bacteria/Microbes actually HELP us in the grand scheme of things? No, not really. It’s a shame that they’re going to end up being cancelled – but I can understand why they’re doing it. Why waste money on rockets and rovers when you can invest it in killing people instead? ^^ I joke – but on that note, perhaps Nasa will invest its government-funded money a bit more wisely in the future. If they spent a single years worth of funds on nothing but engine development – or decided to stop beating around the bush and build the Orbital… Read more »
TerryG
Member
February 11, 2012 6:16 PM

Nice sense of proportion. It’s not like the Mars-files have been deprived.

There will be years of juicy new scientific data from Mars for everyone, when the recently launched Mars Science Laboratory Rover arrives on site later this year. That mission will no-doubt be extended as well.

Olaf
Member
Olaf
February 11, 2012 7:36 PM

Assuming it lands safely.

Torbjorn Larsson OM
Member
Torbjorn Larsson OM
February 11, 2012 7:18 PM
Yes, it is necessary. Science _always_ pays off in the long run, in ways that are not immediately apparent, and science that doesn’t do so directly do so by supporting other science. Whether there is life elsewhere is precisely one of those old “grand scheme” questions – are we alone? In that sense it is an area more necessary than most. Exolife properties and the circumstances that brings it about will help us define biology and astrobiology, both of which has great medical and social returns. In that sense, as I commented above, choosing JWST over ExoMars will tell us more on “Microbes”. (Nitpick: Since Bacteria was found to be a likely monophyletic clade, with Archaea/Eukaryotes on a… Read more »
Olaf
Member
Olaf
February 11, 2012 7:35 PM
Science and research is never a waste of money. It creates new technologies which will trickle down to humanity. Computer chips is one such example. But not only electronics advances, but also advances in materials that could be used for the fire brigade or extreme conditions. Also the technology to detect microbial life on Mars could be used here to detect microbes in food/water, environment much faster, simpler and easier. Communication technology, the technology to send data from Mars can be used for more efficient data channels here on Earth. Also important is to realize that every newly created technology can be patented and is a money pot for the US. If you wait until the Chinese developed… Read more »
wjwbudro
Member
wjwbudro
February 12, 2012 2:00 AM

Why? They haven’t paid for the use of our intellectual property.

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous
February 12, 2012 3:33 AM

“newly created technology” is not exclusive to the US! What typical narrow US bias!

wjwbudro
Member
wjwbudro
February 13, 2012 3:09 AM

Beg pardon sir, should have said “others”, not “ours”.

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous
February 13, 2012 3:29 AM

Fair enough.

ITSRUF
Guest
ITSRUF
February 11, 2012 6:08 PM

Do all those who voted for Obama regret it yet? If not, what will it take?

Ivan3man_At_Large
Member
Ivan3man_At_Large
February 11, 2012 7:02 PM

What makes you think that McCain and Palin(!) would have done any better?

gopher65
Member
gopher65
February 12, 2012 12:56 AM
Exactly. From my (objective, non-American) point of view, most of Obama’s policies are neutral in overall effect, while a very few of them will produce negative results for the US as a whole. Even fewer will have a positive net effect. So I’m not exactly an Obama fan. Overall his policies seem to be having no substantive positive effect. But look at the things proposed by the people running against Obama. From the extremes of Ron Paul (total isolationism, going back to a standards based currency… which worked *oh so well* in the past… not) to the lackluster centrism of Romney… not one of them has proposed anything that isn’t even worse than what Obama is doing right… Read more »
gopher65
Member
gopher65
February 12, 2012 1:04 AM
That said, cutting the space program is stupid. Reorganize it? Sure. But cutting funding from something that provides so much medium and long term benefit to the country (and the world) is just plain dumb. The big problem with the US budget is in out of control health spending. The US government spends as much per capita on health spending as the Canadian government does, and then the private sector spends that much again. That’s ridiculous. US taxpayers are paying for the same service twice. Once though the government, and once through private insurance. They really need to fix that clusterf**k of a health system. What’s even sadder about that is that Canada has by far the highest… Read more »
Torbjorn Larsson OM
Member
Torbjorn Larsson OM
February 12, 2012 5:05 PM

Also of interest on a science blog, only Obama is interested in and, it seems, knowledgeable in science and education.

The then alternatives or the now ones are all anti-scientists (publicly* creationists or worse), so what choice did science and education interested US citizens have?

—————-
* I put publicly there because some like Gingrich seems fiercely intelligent and may know better privately. It wouldn’t affect their policies on science and society however.

I don’t know all of them or their claims either, so perhaps one can optimistically find an alternative on that score. But I wouldn’t bet on it.

Ethan Walker
Guest
Ethan Walker
February 11, 2012 6:42 PM

Here’s hoping that as (if) the economy recovers, Curiosity returns amazing images and results long enough to bring some public attention to this issue, and perhaps return funding in time. If the sky crane system turns out to work as planned, it would be criminal negligence to let a system that capable be abandoned after only one use. There is a continuous thread of technology development from Pathfinder to MSL and it needs to be kept alive.

Torbjorn Larsson OM
Member
Torbjorn Larsson OM
February 11, 2012 7:04 PM
Note that this is an administration that prioritize science and education, and tried to avoid the SLS pork laws. We are lucky that JWST didn’t gobble up more science and that it happened under this administration. Weiler is ridiculed in some comment threads, because while he is lamenting economical decisions on ExoMars he is at least partly responsible for the JWST economical fiasco. As an astrobiology student I rather choose JWST, that has capability to do some unique exoplanetary studies, over ExoMars, which is starting to get into the haphazard territory of looking for organics and extant and extinct life. It is possible that many rovers could be sent before we stumble on the goods. NASA is being… Read more »
Don Hoverson
Guest
Don Hoverson
February 11, 2012 7:06 PM

Finding an alien microbe would get you a week of headlines. Finding an alien tree might get you two weeks. Finding an alien animal probably about a month and finding an alien civilization would get you probably two months. Then people would go back to obsessing about their sports and entertainment stars. Most people really don’t care a great deal about xenogeology. Yet another probe to Mars and more regolith analysis just doesn’t grip them. Face it, humans won’t get to mars until a billionaire wants to go there.

Torbjorn Larsson OM
Member
Torbjorn Larsson OM
February 12, 2012 5:09 PM

I Musk say you may have a point there.

Gregory Cecil
Guest
February 11, 2012 7:39 PM

I wrote about this last October and got all kinds of grief over it from folks saying it wouldn’t happen. Well guess what, it has. Elections have consequences folks! http://www.rv-103.com/breaking-news-obama-proposes-an-end-to-nasas-planetary-science-program/

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous
February 12, 2012 3:08 AM

Ya i love the irony when the government cuts NASA’s budget which is built around uniting our world so they can pay for there wars

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous
February 12, 2012 3:40 AM

Slightly wrong. The wars are not the only cause of deficit. Just living beyond one’s means, as the US has and continues, to be usually just as bad!

Torbjorn Larsson OM
Member
Torbjorn Larsson OM
February 12, 2012 5:12 PM

Yes, the US War on Economy is the main point. US has the excellent notion that failures are educational and must be permitted (try that in a swedish consensus culture!), so you would think “a JWST” now and then could be soaked up.

But oh noes…

Robert Gishubl
Guest
Robert Gishubl
February 13, 2012 1:03 AM

The trouble is not the total NASA budget but waste on expensive programs that are not needed. If SLS/MPCV were scrapped as originally intended then there would be $3B per year for real programs such as Mars science and CCDev and fuel dumps and inflatable habitats. The US could have a base on the moon in 5 years as a stepping stone to a base on Mars if was not for Congressional pork with SLS/MPCV.

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