California Lawmakers Slam NASA for Mars Mission Cuts

California lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are criticizing NASA’s decision to cut funding for its mission to bring samples from Mars back to Earth as “shortsighted and misguided” and warned jobs will be lost at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in their state as a result.

“This shortsighted and misguided decision by NASA will cost hundreds of jobs and a decade of lost science, and it flies in the face of congressional authority,” the six lawmakers wrote to NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, in a letter obtained by Politico. “We are mystified by NASA’s rash decision to suggest at this stage of the appropriations process that any cuts would be necessary.”

The letter was led by Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff and Sen. Alex Padilla and signed by Democrats Rep. Judy Chu and Sen. Laphonza Butler as well as GOP Reps. Mike Garcia and Young Kim.

The Mars Sample Return Mission was to have brought rocks and dust collected by the Perseverance rover back to Earth in 2033. 

However, NASA agreed to slow down the program after cost estimates went too high and over whether Congress would agree to a full-year budget.

But the program’s cost estimates have skyrocketed, and uncertainty over whether Congress can agree to a full-year budget prompted the space agency in early November to slow down the program.

The California lawmakers are urging the agency to reverse the decision and instead to wait for the appropriations to be decided before making any cuts.

The lawmakers added that the talent at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory “represents a national asset that we cannot afford to lose.”

“If this uniquely talented workforce is lost to the private sector, it will be near impossible to reassemble,” they said. 

The Perseverance mission marks the first time samples from Mars will be returned to Earth. China is also pursuing the same goal. The NASA rover landed on Mars in February 2021. 

The rover will collect and cache samples, put them into tubes that can sit on the surface of the planet, and wait there for decades.

NASA is joining with the European Space Agency for part two of the mission, which will involve a rover named Fetch picking up the tubes and loading them into a soccer ball-sized spacecraft that will then rendezvous with a larger spacecraft, which is to drop the sample ball somewhere in the Utah desert.

However, the funding cuts will mean the program won’t meet a 2030 launch window; and the lawmakers wrote that billions of dollars in contracts that support U.S. businesses could also be canceled.

The price tag for the NASA mission went from $4 billion to $11 billion, with an independent review released by the space agency in September stating that the program was set up with an “unrealistic budget and schedule expectations from the beginning.”

Sandy Fitzgerald |

Sandy Fitzgerald has more than three decades in journalism and serves as a general assignment writer for Newsmax covering news, media, and politics. 

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