The House Appropriations Committee released their vision for NASA's 2016 budget this week, which includes significant increases for the SLS and Planetary Science, but cuts Commercial Crew and Earth Science funds.
With the release of the official Announcement of Opportunity (AO) early in November, NASA has officially begun the competition to select its next low cost ($450M) Discovery program planetary mission. Because planetary scientists are free to propose missions to any destination in the solar system other than the sun and Earth, these competitions bring out the creativity in the planetary science program.
Europa may get a mission...eventually. We give our first take on the 2015 NASA Budget request. How does Planetary Exploration fare? Which projects were cancelled? Will NASA capture an asteroid? And most importantly, what can you do about it?
Lockheed, the prime contract on the now-defunct Advanced Stirling Radioisotope Generator program, is closing out the project and transferring its hardware to NASA's Glenn Research Center. NASA expects to save about $55 million per year.
Pat yourself on the back. Planetary exploration will be more vibrant in 2014 thanks to you. More than fifty thousand messages were sent to Congress this year, and they listened, adding back a significant amount of money in the 2014 Omnibus spending bill.
ASRGs could have stretched NASA's limited supply of plutonium to potentially enable missions to the perpetually-shadowed polar craters on our moon, to flyby Uranus, or to float for months on a Titan lake.
The Advanced Stirling Radioisotope Program (ASRG) was just cancelled by NASA. This was to be the saving grace for Plutonium-238 availability, as it was a much more efficient way to generate electricity than classic RTG systems.