The Planetary Society welcomes the news that NASA will land a new rover on Mars in 2020. However, we emphasize that this announcement does not change the status quo: without Congressional action, NASA’s Planetary Sciences division will suffer cuts of $309 million in the 2013 budget. This precludes a robust Mars sample return program, a faster pace of Discovery-class missions, and a strategic mission to study Jupiter’s moon, Europa. The Planetary Society restates its call for the White House and Congress to restore funding to NASA’s Planetary Science division to $1.5 billion/year in order to pursue these priorities as stated in the 2011 Decadal survey.
“NASA’s new plan to send a rover mission to Mars in 2020 is good news. Here’s hoping it will become part of program to return soil samples from the red planet and that its cost will not preclude new missions to other more distant destinations, where there are discoveries to be made.” said Planetary Society CEO Bill Nye.
We commend John Grunsfeld and the Science Mission Directorate within NASA for defining an exciting Mars exploration mission given the limited funds provided in the 2013 budget. The Curiosity, Opportunity, MRO, and MAVEN spacecraft are remarkable investments that must not be abandoned. It is reassuring to see that NASA is committed to extending these missions.
No other space agency can do what NASA does in planetary science. Public interest in the science of our neighboring worlds is higher than ever. The Planetary Society strongly encourages the White House and the U.S. Congress to enable NASA to continue to lead the world by restoring the modest funding needed for a robust planetary exploration program.