With proposed federal budget cuts threatening to eliminate hundreds of jobs at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, NASA head Charles Bolden pledged Wednesday at JPL’s Mars mission control room that the agency would try to keep those scientists and engineers working.
Bolden, a former astronaut and Marine Corps major general, visited with members of JPL’s Mars Science Laboratory team during practice drills for the Aug. 5 landing of the Mars rover Curiosity.
Next year’s proposed NASA budget would reduce planetary science funding by $300 million, scrapping two future Mars robotic exploration missions that would have employed JPL Mars team members whose duties will end when Curiosity touches down if the proposed budget is approved. JPL officials have said that without those missions, several hundred at the facility could be left without work to do.
Although he offered little detail, Bolden said that NASA will attempt to restructure its Mars program in ways that would save jobs at JPL and preserve its Mars exploration brain trust.