Support from Congress for Mars 2020 and Europa missions comes after proposed cut from White House earlier this year.
On Wednesday, Congressman Adam Schiff announced that the FY 2015 Omnibus Appropriations package, also known as the CRomnibus, significantly upped funding for planetary science programs, as well as supporting the full range of NASA priorities in both robotic and human spaceflight. Not only will Cassini, Curiosity and other existing missions be funded through next year, but the Mars 2020 rover and a Europa mission are set on a course that should result in a sample caching mission to Mars and a full exploration of one of the most interesting bodies in our solar system – Jupiter’s moon, Europa.
“After three years of fighting the Administration for adequate funding for space exploration, this appropriations package properly supports NASA’s priorities, and especially NASA’s crown jewel, the planetary science program,” said Schiff. “By specifically laying out Congress’s plan for our planetary science program – a Mars 2020 mission and a trip to Europa, two of the science community’s highest priorities – it’s my hope that the Administration will now work hand-in-hand with us to make this happen. I want to thank Chairman Frank Wolf and Ranking Member Chakah Fattah for working with us to restore adequate funding to planetary science. I only wish it wasn’t necessary to do so year after year after year.”
In May, the House Appropriations Commerce, Justice and Science Subcommittee set overall funding for planetary will be at $1.45 billion, including a total of $302 million for the Mars program of which not less than $100 million is for the Mars 2020 rover, something that will meet the decadal goals of advancing a sample return. The bill also includes $100 million for a Europa Clipper mission to the Jupiter system, which could be launched as early as 2021.
In the final bill posted Tuesday night, and expected to pass both the House and Senate this week, NASA will be provided $18.01 billion, $549 million above the President’s request for this year and $364 million above last year. Planetary science will be funded at a total of $1.437 billion, an increase of $157 million or 12%, which will support the continued funding of the Opportunity rover and the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, as well as the Mars 2020 mission. It also specifically delineates $118 million for a flagship mission to Europa in the future, an increase of $102 million or 686% over the previous year’s funding level – through this appropriation, Congress is specifically directing NASA to begin planning a mission to Jupiter’s moon in the future.