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Slowdown of Mars Sample Return Protested by California Lawmakers

NOV 27, 2023
Jacob Taylor headshot
Senior Editor for Science Policy, FYI American Institute of Physics
Mars Viking Orbiter Composite Widened.png

Mosaic image of Mars from NASA’s Viking 1 spacecraft.

NASA

A bipartisan group of six California lawmakers led by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Sen. Alex Padilla (D-CA) sent a letter to NASA last week urging the agency to reverse its instruction to slow down work on the Mars Sample Return mission.

The group expresses concern the move will make it impossible to meet a launch window in 2030, jeopardize billions of dollars in contracts, and cost California hundreds of jobs.

They also assert it breaches the law, stating, “NASA’s deeply short-sighted and misguided decision to unilaterally adjust the funding allocation granted to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory to carry out the MSR mission violates Congress’ appropriations authority.”

MSR has recently faced stiff headwinds, with an independent review board report finding the mission will require billions of dollars more than previously anticipated and NASA now considering new changes to its architecture. NASA’s slowdown of work on MSR is a response to a proposal for steep cuts in the Senate’s fiscal year 2024 spending legislation, which is in tension with the House’s proposal to meet NASA’s requested amount.

Sen. Laphonza Butler (D-CA) and Reps. Judy Chu (D-CA), Mike Garcia (R-CA), and Young Kim (R-CA) also signed the letter.

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