February 7, 2012
NASA Jumping Out Of Joint ESA Mars Mission
NASA has decided it will be unable to continue a joint endeavor with the European Space Agency (ESA) on the ExoMars mission.
The space agency told ESA that it will not be able to continue the mission, in which they planned to send an orbiting satellite and a rover to Mars.
"The Americans have indicated that the possibility of them participating is now low - very low. It's highly unlikely," Alvaro Gimenez, ESA's director of science, told BBC. "They are interested, they know it's a very good option for them - but they have difficulties putting these missions in the budget."
The ExoMars mission would see a satellite be launched in 2016 to try and look for methane and other trace gases in the Martian atmosphere.
ESA was originally concerned by NASA's budget cuts last year, which prompted the space agency to talk with the Russian space agency (Roscosmos) about entering the ExoMars project.
If Roscosmos decides to not play a role in the mission, ESA will be forced to use previous designs for a smaller rover, and a date of 2018.
This is not the first adversity NASA has faced recently with budget cuts from the President Barack Obama administration.
In 2010, President Obama introduced a plan to change how NASA operates, by getting rid of the decades-old shuttle program, and focusing future U.S. space travel in the private industry.
NASA's James Webb Space Telescope also faced the chopping block after last year's budget was announced, but recent estimates show funding may still be there.
The observatory, which is the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, is now expected to cost $8.8 billion and could launch in 2018.
Keith Cowing of NASAwatch.com wrote that the 2013 NASA budget will see the Science Mission Directorate budget drop 50 to 60 percent. He said half a billion could be pulled from this Mars exploration program due to overruns from its Webb telescope project.
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