Proposed cuts to next year’s NASA budget would drastically scale back the agency’s efforts to explore Mars, likely costing hundreds of Jet Propulsion Laboratory workers their jobs.
In the scope of a more than $17.7-billion proposed 2013 budget for the agency, the call for a $300-million reduction in planetary science funding appears relatively modest on paper but would hit JPL particularly hard.
The cuts eliminate two future joint U.S.-European Mars missions that would have been managed by JPL, eliminating positions for many of the scientists and engineers who built and launched NASA’s celebrated Mars rovers.
“If nothing changes in the budget, the impact on us will be a few hundred workers next fiscal year,” said JPL Legislative Affairs Manager Rich O’Toole. The agency’s fiscal year begins in October.
JPL’s Curiosity rover is expected to reach the Red Planet on Aug. 5. Touchdown will conclude the roles of many on the Curiosity team, who would have gone on to participate in the future Mars missions slashed under the new budget, said O’Toole.