Dem Congressman Takes Obama to Task for Gutting Mars Program
August 14, 2012 • 12:08AM

The Democratic Congressman who represents Pasadena, Calif., home of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, penned a special to the Washington Post that blasts President Obama for emasculating the Mars program. Rep. Adam Schiff's piece, "Curiosity Mars landing highlights NASA budget woes," was also published in Newsday and other outlets.

"...President Barack Obama's fiscal 2013 budget proposed cutting hundreds of millions of dollars from the Mars Exploration Program. Simply put, the crown jewel of the U.S. planetary science program is hanging by a budgetary thread.... The most recent decadal survey found a Mars sample-return mission the No. 1 priority of those involved in planetary science, which makes the administration's attempts to cut the Mars budget even more inexplicable...."

At the same time, Schiff tries to exonerate Congress: "We in Congress are doing our part: The House has moved to restore $88 million of the administration's proposed cuts, and the Senate has moved to put back $100 million. It is likely that even more of the funds will be restored in the final appropriations legislation...." But Schiff also, apparently, realizes that with continuing resolutions and threats of sequestration, good intentions can be easily swept aside. At the Mars Society conference in Pasadena on Aug. 4th, Schiff called on the participants to petition their representatives "for an increase in NASA's budget, as well as a national commitment to lead an effort to put humans on Mars by a date certain."

He concludes his Washington Post special: "Without the excitement generated by these missions, our ability to attract a new generation of American students to choose scientific and technical careers will be seriously undermined. Profoundly important research and development and all the economic benefits it brings will be forsaken. And America will step back from its place of preeminence in planetary science, with Russia, China and Europe leading the new charge into space.

"Last week, we won the gold. But where will we be in four years?"