Alex Padilla

04/15/2024 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 04/15/2024 16:26

Padilla, Butler Statement on Mars Sample Return Mission Budget Cuts

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, U.S. Senators Alex Padilla and Laphonza Butler (both D-Calif.) issued the following joint statement after NASA announced that they will fund the Mars Sample Return (MSR) mission at $310 million for 2024 and will request $200 million for the mission for FY 2025, falling far short of the funding necessary for the mission:

"These cuts will delay the mission at a critical time, further diminish our highly-skilled workforce, and significantly undermine California's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and our state's globally-leading science and space leadership as we face increasing competition with China. These funding levels are woefully short for a mission that NASA itself identified as its highest priority in planetary science and that has been decades in the making. We strongly urge Administrator Nelson to work with Congress to better balance these cuts so that the JPL workforce is protected and the mission proceeds while NASA and JPL evaluate if additional industry solutions are necessary."

The MSR mission, led by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, will launch a spacecraft from the surface of another planet and return it to Earth for the first time in human history. MSR will carry samples currently being collected on Mars' surface by the Perseverance Rover - the completion of a decades-long project at NASA. Last month, Senators Padilla and Butler wrote to NASA Administrator Bill Nelson urging him to allocate the full $650 million necessary to fund the MSR mission in NASA's FY24 spending plan, following the passage of the FY 2024 appropriations package, which reiterated Congress' strong commitment to the MSR mission. Earlier this year, Senator Padilla and Representatives Judy Chu (D-Calif.-28) and Adam Schiff (D-Calif.-30) led 41 California lawmakers in urging Director Shalanda Young of the White House Office of Management and Budget to reverse the devastating budget cuts to the MSR mission. Padilla, Schiff, and a bicameral, bipartisan group of lawmakers also sent a letter to Administrator Nelson last year expressing concern over this decision.