NASA Mission to Europa May Fall to Budget Cuts


Next week, the US National Academy of Sciences will release their decadal review of priorities for planetary science in 2013-2022, and it will be interesting to see how highly prioritized a mission to Jupiter’s enticing moon Europa will be. But according to Space News, word from the NASA Advisory Council’s planetary science subcommittee is that because of probable flat or declining budgets for building and operating planetary probes over the next five years, there will likely be no funding to begin development of a flagship-class mission such as a long-anticipated detailed survey of Europa.

“The out-years budget means no major new starts of a flagship planetary [mission],” Ronald Greeley, a regent’s professor at Arizona State University in Tempe and chairman of the NASA Advisory Council’s planetary science subcommittee, said during a March 1 conference call with panel members. “That’s a major, major issue for our community.”

The only flagship-class planetary mission in the works is the $2.5 billion Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity. The Juno mission to Jupiter, scheduled to launch in August 2011, is a medium-class “New Frontiers” mission set to study Jupiter only and not any of its moons.

The 2012 budget request for NASA, unveiled February 14, 2011 by President Obama, would boost spending on planetary science activities from the current level of $1.36 billion to $1.54 billion next year. But funding would steadily decline over the following four years, to $1.25 billion in 2016.

Space News reports that “NASA’s projected top-line budget is flat over the next five years at $18.72 billion, which when inflation is factored in translates into a decline in spending power. But there are budgetary scenarios under which NASA’s budget would decline over the next five years, even as the agency tries to replace the space shuttle and contends with runaway cost growth on the $5 billion-plus James Webb Space Telescope, the designated successor to the Hubble Space Telescope.”

Many have long hoped for mission to Europa, but budgetary issues have been a problem, even the past; the JIMO (Jupiter Icy Moon Orbiter) mission was canceled in 2005 because of lack of funding.

ESA and NASA have been studying a collaborative mission called Europa Jupiter System Mission/Laplace that would send two spacecraft to survey Jupiter and its moons. It is one of three candidates for a large-scale science mission opportunity that would launch around 2022. ESA has budgeted about $1 billion for the opportunity but is awaiting decisions from NASA and the Japanese space agency, which is collaborating on another candidate mission, before making a final decision on which one to pursue.

“How we will implement [the decadal priorities] within our existing budget needs to be considered,” NASA Planetary Science Division Director Jim Green said during the March 1 conference call, adding there is “no additional money beyond the president’s submitted budget.”

Source: Space News

28 Replies to “NASA Mission to Europa May Fall to Budget Cuts”

  1. Awwww:(. That would push back the Titan orbiter/blimp/lander combo mission (which has already been pushed back by the Europa mission) into the 2030s or even 2040s. That’s just sad.

  2. argh! Was discussing this Yesterday; this may be a severe setback to finding extra terrestrial life! On the bright side, i may have just won £10

  3. Joed293
    Haha, gotta wait another 11 years for that tenner pal! xD

    damn, this should be a top priority mission.

  4. It really saddens me that the push to advance our knowledge of our universe that we have experienced over the last 50 years has come to a sudden halt. Woe is me for I fear I won’t be around for the next major discovery. Perhaps the LHC will let me go out with a smile.

    1. “Defense budget does up, up, up! NASA’s does down, down,down…”

      LOL. Sounds like O’ Reilly’s calculus. You can’t explain that either! 🙂

      1. Heh, glad you caught that. O’Reilly or some of the other talking hosts… still valid point I think.

    2. It is the US millitary which preserves western civilization and makes all science possible. Besides it is always coming up with the next big technological wonder.

      1. The problem is not with defence budgets, otherwise Europe and Japan would have far bigger space budgets than US. The problem is with runaway social expenditure. Politiacians are wasting too much money to butter their votebanks. Unfortunately scientists do not form too large a group to influence elections.

      2. The US spends more on it’s military and defense than the next top ten nations combined. The US makes up for about 43-49% of all military expenditures worldwide. The variability accounts for different calculations (some statistics don’t include vet benefits… I would though).

        Clearly military spending is a problem. Decades ago, one could have made the argument US hard power (arms sales, interventions etc.) had an overall net positive effect on worldwide stability. Today however, it is clear from world events that this reasoning is no longer correct.

        One could be angry and resent the US for supporting tyrants, aiding belligerent nations, or other destabilizing actions. In the end, it’s the Americans who suffer the most. Every dollar spent on arms, free cash for Israel, or tanks is one less dollar in the pockets of everyday Americans.


    1. lol uncle fred, i didn’t see your comment before i made mine. looks like we’re on the same page.

      1. Thanks Question! HA Hon. you are a genius! Lets start a lobby group.

        For added measure, we can tell them Al-Qaeda possess WMD’s and that they are a mortal threat to Israel’s other homeland on Europa.

        God damn-it when will science ever be important!!?!

    1. Politicians have so many special interest groups that they need to butter. Unfortunately scientists are too small in number to impact the outcome of elections. That’s why Obama is ready to spend tens of billions of dollars to build such hightech 21st century staff as high speed trains but have no money for space exploration. The prospect of building trains is sure to inspire a whole new generation to take up science.

      1. Unfortunately, high speed trains make little sense in the US. The only really viable routes would be the Washington – New York area and the San Francisco – LA corridor. Otherwise, cities are too spread out and mostly lack a common urbanized axis where a single line could serve a collection of cities.

        They make sense in Europe and Japan because the land mass is so tiny. China is a good place since most of the population is centered around the coastline.

        The best area of North America for a high speed line is not in the US at all! Canada could really use one between Windsor and Quebec City. The current highway that serves this region is one of the busiest in the world. A single line could serve serve several million in a relatively short span.

  5. mi.k: “even hollywood movies have greater budgets” — “entertainment above knowledge”

    The government does not decide about hollywood movies, does it? Regarding the allocation of the government’s budget, entertainment versus knowledge is an inappropriate alternative. Better take science versus such things like health care — or generally infrastructure –, and defence.

    1. all right )
      thus, moviemakers must take over plan, start and support of space missions. )

  6. Seems to me that the $424 million wasted on the Glory mission to explore the Pacific, could have been much more appropriately spent on exploration of Europa.

    1. wasted on the Glory mission to explore the Pacific,

      If it had gotten up to explore the Earth radiation balance there wouldn’t have been any waste but much gain. The aerosols, which are partly man made, partly changes with climate changes, are the last big uncertainty in predicting climate.

      Not AGW, which is validated anyway (or at least to two sigma as of yet, better than we ascertain our own colds), but how much change and how to cheapest navigate the moral and economic outfall. AGW will make billions of climate refugees in a generation or two, according to the prognosis, some 10 % of Earth population at best. The 0.4 GUSD is small change in that equation.

  7. NASA’s climate science budget now far exceeds its astrophysics budget. Since NASA is now concentrating on studying the climate, maybe NOAA can start focussing on dark energy and gamma ray bursts.

    1. I can’t tell US citizens how to invest their money, but you could argue that what NASA learns on Earth climate is very applicable on other planets and moons, and vice versa. So there is no conflict in having NASA do what they do best – launch rockets in the most expensive way possible. 🙁

      1. “So there is no conflict in having NASA do what they do best – launch rockets in the most expensive way possible.”

        That made me laugh:). Solid rocket boosters 4TL!

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