Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) provoked a tense exchange with NASA Administrator Charles Bolden during a House budget hearing Wednesday on proposed cuts to Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Mars program.
Schiff grilled Bolden for nearly 17 minutes about NASA's plan to scrap two robotic Mars missions that would employ hundreds at JPL whose job duties otherwise end in August, after touchdown of the Curiosity rover.
Bolden touted Curiosity as evidence of NASA's commitment to exploring Mars and said the agency could scale back the Mars program without abandoning its scientific goals, prompting accusations of double talk from Schiff.
“That is a very Orwellian answer, in my view, that says the way to go forward is to go backward, the way to go up is down,” Schiff said.
He added that Curiosity should not be the end of the line for JPL's Mars team. “Cannibalizing the Mars program, which gets closer to unlocking the secrets of Mars' past with each mission and discovery, is a major step backwards for the nation and for NASA. … No amount of spin or rhetoric will change that fact,” he said.