Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Good News Times Three!

In addition to my previous post this morning with two pieces of good news, we now have a third.  A House appropriations subcommittee has marked up NASA's budget, and recommended restoring $200M more than the President recommended, or $100M more than the Senate subcommittee, to NASA's planetary science program.  (This would still be a $100M cut from this year's funding.)  The House language specifically directs $150M of that towards a mission that leads to a Mars sample return or, if that's not possible, then the money would go towards an Europa orbiter.

Here is the post from this morning with the other good news, for your convenience:

Click on the image to read a current summary of the proposed JUICE mission

Jonathan Amos at the BBC website reports that the JUICE Jupiter system mission is now the front runner for the European Space Agency's selection of its next large science mission.  If the recommendation by the Space Science Advisory Committee is ratified in a few weeks by the Space Programme Committee, JUICE would launch in 2022 and arrive at Jupiter in 2030.  The spacecraft then would study the giant planet and its magnetosphere as well as conduct flybys of the moons Europa and Callisto before entering orbit around Ganymede for extensive studies of that moon.  Click on the image above (or here) to read the most recent summary of the mission from the proposal team, or you can read a summary of the mission goals in an earlier post of mine, JUICE – Jupiter Ganymede Orbiter Revised Proposal.  There is the possibility that NASA may play a minor role in the mission such as contributing an instrument or two.

On the other side of the Atlantic, the U.S. Senate's Commerce-Justice-Science subcommittee voted to restore $100M of the proposed cuts to NASA's Mars program.  This would still leave NASA's planetary science program with a cut compared to last year of approximately $200M.  It's unclear how NASA would use the additional funding if it is matched in the House budget and eventually signed into law by the President.  The additional funds would be too late and too small to allow NASA to rejoin the European and Russian 2016 mission and probably the 2018 mission.  Possibilities I can think of is that NASA might contribute entry, landing, and descent technology for the 2018 rover in exchange to being allowed to contribute instruments, or the funding to enhance the scope of NASA's own planned 2018 Mars mission, or the funding might be used to enable more frequent flights of Discovery or New Frontiers missions.  

The Senate action also proposes significant program changes for the U.S. weather satellite program and for the commercial crew program.  Space Policy Online has a good summary.  

I'll close by posting two slides from the recent JUICE mission summary that describe the contributions the mission would make to studying Ganymede and Europa.  I recommend you read the full presentation

 I am excited by this news!  JUICE would be a fantastic mission.


  1. Speaking about Jupiter:

  2. An interesting mission. Thanks for the link!

  3. The Keystone GarterMay 14, 2012 at 11:51 AM

    Which is the one with periodic Geysers like are stable on Enceladus? Europa? I wonder if a detachable instrument or even the whole spacecraft can be made to fly through one of these targets of opportunity to look for the types of carbon molecule signatures that were missing on the Enceladus probe, the molecules that signify life. Any way to remotely oceans found, IDK, looking for radiation melt or something? I'd be interested in local rocky interior surface topologies: any hotspots and how long they've been around. We know where to look for Jellyfish in Enceladus.