Feb 8, 2006
So much in our vast universe seems hopelessly faraway, but with NASA's FY2007 budget even relatively close planetary neighbors like Mars and Europa now seem more distant. The venerable space agency's cancellation of so many robotic exploration and observation projects dawns as a dark day for space science. It is sadly ironic, considering that a hefty 76 percent increase to $3.06 billion has been allotted for the long-term manned spaceflight initiative. This bodes well for the future of American manned space exploration. But the price has been high, way too high.
Most salient among the robotic mission cuts is the Europa exploration program that had been given the highest priority solar system science objective after Mars by the National Academy of Sciences and NASA advisory committees. And even planetary exploration's job-one that has seen the Martian landscape increasingly covered with rover tracks was also not immune: NASA's Red Planet research budget has been cut by $243.3 million to $700.2 million. This includes the cancellation or indefinite postponement of projects such as the Mars Sample Return Mission and the Mars Telecommunications Orbiter.
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