"One of the major factors for both Comet Hopper and for the Titan Mare Explorer, you know, were cost risks — cost and schedule risks," Grunsfeld told reporters today.
"The InSight mission had the highest probability — by enough margin that it distinguished itself — that it could actually be accomplished under the cost constraints that we have, and on the schedule," Grunsfeld added. "I don't think I need to tell you that in the current fiscal environment that's really a very important element, all other things being equal, as they were."
Back to the Red Planet
The selection of InSight may help reaffirm NASA's dedication to Mars exploration despite recent financial troubles. The White House's proposed 2013 federal budget cuts the agency's planetary science efforts by 20 percent, with much of the funding coming out of the Mars program.
As a result, NASA dropped out of the European-led ExoMars mission — which aims to launch an orbiter and a rover to the Red Planet in 2016 and 2018, respectively — and has begun downscaling its Mars program.
"The exploration of Mars is a top priority for NASA, and the selection of InSight ensures we will continue to unlock the mysteries of the Red Planet and lay the groundwork for a future human mission there," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said in a statement.
"The recent successful landing of the Curiosity rover has galvanized public interest in space exploration, and today's announcement makes clear there are more exciting Mars missions to come," Bolden added.
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