Members of Congress Urge NASA to Provide Full Funding for the Mars Sample Return Program
Members of Congress are urging NASA to continue its work on the Mars Sample Return (MSR) program and to secure full funding for the effort in 2024.
In a Nov. 21 letter to NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, six members of California’s congressional delegation expressed their strong opposition to NASA’s recent directive to slow down work on MSR due to budget uncertainty.
The signatories include Sens. Alex Padilla and Laphonza Butler, and Reps. Adam Schiff, Judy Chu, Mike Garcia, and Young Kim. The House members, in particular, emphasized the impact of budget cuts on the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which is leading the MSR effort.
Agency officials recently instructed the centers working on MSR to scale back their activities due to significant differences in the budget allocated for the program by the House and the Senate.
NASA is currently operating under a continuing resolution that funds MSR at fiscal year 2023 levels, which is causing concerns about the future of the program.
The bipartisan group voiced their frustration in the letter, stating that NASA’s decision violates Congress’s appropriations authority and will have severe consequences on the MSR mission.
Additionally, they highlighted the strategic significance of MSR in the context of geopolitical competition with China in space and urged Senate appropriators to increase funding for the program in 2024.
These discussions come as NASA evaluates various alternative architectures for MSR in response to an independent review board report highlighting budget and schedule concerns.
The letters to NASA and Senate appropriations leaders underscore the importance of securing adequate funding to ensure a successful launch and the continued progress of the MSR program.