Today, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), a member of the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Subcommittee, applauded the decision of Subcommittee Chairman Frank Wolf (R-VA) to reject a fiscal 2012 reprogramming request that would have shifted funds away from the Mars program, including a pair of joint missions with the European Space Agency (ESA). The request, which came from NASA, would have begun the process of shutting down its cooperative Mars-exploration effort with the ESA, which is primarily housed at JPL. While this decision does not stave off possible future cuts, it enables Congress to properly and thoroughly debate the President's 2013 budget proposal.
"I want to thank Chairman Wolf for rejecting this reprogramming request by NASA," said Schiff."NASA's effort to mothball the Mars program is a disaster for America's leadership in planetary science, and I'm glad this first step has been rejected by the committee. Thanks to the brilliant scientists at JPL, we have the unique capability to design, fly and land sophisticated robotic spacecraft on our planetary neighbor, and this is not a talent pool NASA should abandon."
"I will continue to work to defeat these ill-considered cuts and restore the Mars budget. While today's decision by Chairman Wolf is enormously positive, we still have a lot of work to do to put the Mars program back on track."
Specifically, NASA had requested to discontinue work on the joint 2016 and 2018 Mars missions being explored with the European Space Agency (ESA) and allocate a reduced amount to the study of a potential new future Mars mission. This request came on the heels of the unilateral decision by NASA to withdraw from the discussions with the ESA aimed at bringing the Russian Federal Space Agency (RFSA) into the cooperative effort. According to reports, as a result of NASA's decision, the ESA and RFSA have since drafted a bilateral exploration plan.
Rep. Frank Wolf sent a letter last week to Administrator Charles Bolden outlining his opposition to NASA's reprogramming proposal until it could be properly debated. Schiff previously met with NASA Administrator Charles Bolden to express his dismay over the proposed cuts, and questioned the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy during a hearing of the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Subcommittee.