Tuesday, March 20, 2012

NASA's Planetary Science Future Rides on Huge Mars Rover's Success

Date: 20 March 2012 Time: 10:00 AM ET
NASA Mars Rover Curiosity
This artist's concept features NASA's Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover, a mobile robot for investigating Mars' past or present ability to sustain microbial life. Curiosity launched toward the Red Planet on Nov. 26, 2011.
A huge NASA rover streaking toward Mars to investigate the Red Planet's potential to host life has picked up a new mission objective — help save the space agency's planetary science program.
In the Obama Administration's budget request for next year, which was unveiled last month, NASA planetary science suffered a 21 percent cut, compelling the agency to scale back its robotic exploration efforts and drop out of two future European-led Mars missions entirely.
But top NASA officials are holding out hope that some funding may be restored in the future if the 1-ton Curiosity rover, which is due to arrive at the Red Planet this August, lands safely and performs as advertised.
"What a tremendous opportunity it is for us," Jim Green, head of NASA's planetary science division, said Monday (March 19) at the 43rd Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC) in The Woodlands, Texas. "I believe [Curiosity] will open up that new era of discovery that will compel this nation to invest more in planetary science." [Photos: Curiosity Launches Toward Mars]

MAIL: http://www.space.com/14959-mars-rover-curiosity-nasa-planetary-science.html


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