Padilla, Butler Urge NASA to Fully Fund Mars Sample Return Program

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Immediately, U.S. Senators Alex Padilla and Laphonza Butler (each D-Calif.) wrote to NASA Administrator Invoice Nelson urging him to allocate the complete $650 million essential to fund the Mars Pattern Return (MSR) mission in NASA’s FY24 spending plan. The Senators are issuing the letter following the passage of the FY 2024 appropriations bundle, which reiterated Congress’ robust dedication to the MSR mission.

The MSR mission, led by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, will launch a spacecraft from the floor of one other planet and return it to Earth for the primary time in human historical past. MSR will carry samples presently being collected on Mars’ floor by the Perseverance Rover — the completion of a decades-long venture at NASA.

“If pressured to function on the unnecessarily low funding stage prematurely directed by NASA in its November 8 letter, billions of {dollars} in contracts supporting American companies will likely be topic to cancellation, we are going to fail to capitalize on greater than a decade of funding in property already deployed on Mars, and lots of of extremely expert jobs in California and elsewhere within the nation will likely be misplaced,” wrote the Senators. “This expertise represents a nationwide asset that we can’t afford to lose, notably as we face elevated competitors from China.”

“If NASA continues to defy Congressional intent or continues to suggest inadequate funding that necessitates any additional reductions in employees downstream, NASA will likely be demonstrating that it not helps the scientific group’s prioritization course of, doesn’t respect the authority of Congress, and doesn’t acknowledge the numerous position that scientific missions play in sustaining our nationwide competitiveness as key expertise demonstrators forward of any human missions,” continued the Senators.

A just lately commissioned Unbiased Overview Board (IRB) evaluation of this system’s implementation plan and administration method reiterated that MSR needs to be a nationwide house exploration precedence, given its scientific and strategic significance.

Final month, Senator Padilla and Representatives Judy Chu (D-Calif.-28) and Adam Schiff (D-Calif.-30) led 41 California lawmakers in urging Director Shalanda Younger of the White Home Workplace of Administration and Funds to reverse the devastating finances cuts to the MSR mission. Padilla, Schiff, and a bicameral, bipartisan group of lawmakers additionally despatched a letter to Administrator Nelson final yr expressing concern over this choice.

Full textual content of at the moment’s letter is offered right here and beneath:

Pricey Administrator Nelson,

We write to precise our strongest assist for the Mars Pattern Return (MSR) mission and to spotlight the language included within the enacted Fiscal Yr 2024 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Associated Companies appropriations invoice. Given the significance of this mission and clear Congressional route, we urge you to fund MSR at $650 million in your forthcoming FY24 spending plan.

For the primary time in human historical past, we are going to launch a spacecraft from the floor of one other planet and provides our scientists the chance to straight analyze samples from Mars. Within the FY24 appropriations invoice, Congress was unequivocal in its assist for the mission and the Decadal Survey course of: the 2023 Planetary Sciences Decadal Survey recognized the completion of MSR as NASA’s highest scientific precedence.

The Unbiased Overview Board (IRB) evaluation of the MSR Program’s implementation plan and administration method reiterated that MSR needs to be a nationwide house exploration precedence, given its scientific and strategic significance. The IRB very clearly didn’t advocate that NASA cancel the MSR mission, and it’s essential that NASA funds the mission at $650 million to make sure a well timed launch to get well the samples.

We need to reiterate the language within the appropriations invoice that there was a regarding lack of session with impacted Members of Congress about NASA’s choice to maneuver ahead with workforce reductions earlier than a last FY24 appropriations invoice was enacted and Congress’ concern that NASA’s actions have contributed to severe losses in NASA’s high-skilled workforce. Congress was clear that NASA mustn’t have interaction in additional workforce reductions. Given the necessity to forestall any additional layoffs, NASA should expeditiously finalize their plans in order that this system will be executed and maximally leverage the proficient group and property which are devoted to MSR.

If pressured to function on the unnecessarily low funding stage prematurely directed by NASA in its November 8 letter, billions of {dollars} in contracts supporting American companies will likely be topic to cancellation, we are going to fail to capitalize on greater than a decade of funding in property already deployed on Mars, and lots of of extremely expert jobs in California and elsewhere within the nation will likely be misplaced. This expertise represents a nationwide asset that we can’t afford to lose, notably as we face elevated competitors from China.

It’s of the utmost significance to the success of our house program that NASA upholds its dedication to the Decadal Survey course of as a strategy to independently prioritize missions and that NASA respects Congress’ clear intention for MSR to succeed. If NASA continues to defy Congressional intent or continues to suggest inadequate funding that necessitates any additional reductions in employees downstream, NASA will likely be demonstrating that it not helps the scientific group’s prioritization course of, doesn’t respect the authority of Congress, and doesn’t acknowledge the numerous position that scientific missions play in sustaining our nationwide competitiveness as key expertise demonstrators forward of any human missions.

Subsequently, we strongly urge you to fund the Mars Pattern Return mission at $650 million in your forthcoming FY24 spending plan.

Sincerely,

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