The California Democrat remained unconvinced, insisting that the current proposal is one that he cannot accept.
"Those are all fine words, but they don't make it so," Schiff said. "I wish we could all get by on good words, but what matters are the deeds."
Rep. John Culberson (R-Texas) shared Schiff's sentiments, saying the proposed planetary science cuts are "unacceptable," and NASA's vision for future robotic exploration is "not consistent with reality."
"I grieve for my country — I grieve for NASA," Culberson said. "There's no way you can say the planetary program can survive a cut of 21 percent."
Meanwhile, some 2,000 space scientists are gathering this week at the 43rd Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in The Woodlands, Texas. Angry scientists at the conference, including noted Mars scientist Steve Squyres, a professor at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. and principal investigator for NASA's Opportunity rover on Mars, are pushing back, and are rallying to restore the agency's planetary science budget.
But Bolden defended NASA' Mars program, and pointed to MSL's expected arrival at Mars in August as a sign that exploration of the Red Planet is ongoing and vibrant. He also said the rover's tricky descent and landing will be challenging for him and the agency.
"I think you'll see the finest level of performance of our Mars program," Bolden said. "Humans around the world will be able to see color, 3-D images from the surface of Mars. That has never been done before. Once I do that, hopefully you will be as excited as I am about the Mars program."
- The Best (And Worst) Mars Landings in History
- NASA's 2013 Budget: What Will It Buy?
- Mars Explored: Landers and Rovers Since 1971 (Infographic)
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