KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Florida, President Barack Obama Thursday set a bold new course for the future of US space travel, planning to send American astronauts into Mars orbit within the next three decades.Less than two years later, President Obama is preparing to gut the Mars exploration budget.
And he sought to quell a storm of outrage which met earlier plans unveiled by his administration, vowing before NASA staff that he was “100 percent committed” to their mission and the US space agency’s future.
“As president, I believe that space exploration is not a luxury, it’s not an afterthought in America’s quest for a brighter future. It is an essential part of that quest,” he said at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — Scientists say NASA is about to propose major cuts in its exploration of other planets, especially Mars. And NASA’s former science chief is calling it irrational.
With limited money for science and an over-budget new space telescope, the space agency essentially had to make a choice in where it wanted to explore: the neighboring planet or the far-off cosmos.
Two scientists who were briefed on the 2013 NASA budget that will be released next week said the space agency is eliminating two proposed joint missions with Europeans to explore Mars in 2016 and 2018. NASA had agreed to pay $1.4 billion for those missions. Some Mars missions will continue, but the fate of future flights is unclear, including the much-sought flight to return rocks from the red planet.
The two scientists, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the budget, said the cuts to the Mars missions are part of a proposed reduction of about $300 million in NASA’s $1.5 billion planetary science budget. More than $200 million in those cuts are in the Mars program, they said. The current Mars budget is $581.7 million.