Thursday, June 30, 2011

Update: Building a Coalition for Mars

In my last post, I talked about the challenges facing both ESA and NASA in building the political and budgetary framework for their joint Mars program.  This week, NASA's challenges are highlighted.  The U.S. agency was scheduled to deliver a letter of commitment to the program on June 28.  Uncertainties in the NASA budget outlook has meant that the U.S. cannot make that commitment now.  NASA hopes to be able to make that commitment by September 15 when it's budget outlook is clearer.

In the meantime, ESA has decided not to move forward on contracts for the 2016 orbiter and demonstration lander pending NASA's commitment.  ESA's managers are looking to work with their industrial partners to continue work on the most time critical elements of the 2016 mission to allow it to launch on time if the funding commitment comes through.

Additional Reading:

Space News: ESA Forced To Defer Full-scale Work on 2016 Mars Orbiter
BBC: Mars missions in summer slow lane 
AWST: NASA Funding Mired In Budget Politics

Editorial Thought:  I have great respect for the managers of NASA's Planetary Science program.  This budget uncertainty must be making what are already challenging jobs that much harder.  I wish them the best as they work through these issues.

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