U.S. House Committee Votes to Restore JPL Funding

Pasadena Lawmaker Announces House's Approval of NASA Appropriations Package; Missions to Mars and Jupiter would be Funded

Published : Friday, July 19, 2013 | 2:25 AM

D-Pasadena Rep. Adam Schiff announced Thursday that the United States House of Representatives Appropriations Committee passed a $1.315-billion appropriations package that would fund Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s missions to Mars and Jupiter.

FY 2014 Commerce, Justice and Science appropriations package for Fiscal 2014 would restore almost $100 million to the planetary science budget that would have Mars 2020 Rover and a mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa as top priorities, Schiff said in a press release.

Schiff added that without continuous efforts for these missions, the country will lose its “talented” engineers and scientists, making it “extremely difficult to reconstitute” for NASA.

“The NASA portion of the bill that was just passed goes a long way towards plugging the funding shortfall that threatens our leadership in the exploration of the solar system,” Schiff said.

The White House requested earlier this year $1.217 billion for planetary science. If the full Senate and House go along with their respective appropriation committees, they still must resolve a $1.4 billion difference to resolve.

With the appropriation package, $288 million will be allotted for Mars exploration and $65 million for the design and development of a mission that would acquire a sample from the Red Planet in 2020. In addition, a $159 million will be allotted for exploration of the outer planets, including the mission to Europa.

“These are places that have water, that’s why we want to go there,” Bill Nye, the president and CEO of the Pasadena-based Planetary Society, told the Pasadena Star-News. “If we were to make a discovery on another one of those worlds, it would change this one. It would change everything.”

The Planetary Society is “happy that planetary science didn’t get cut as much,” but there could have been more, Nye told the newspaper.

“The idea that you have a NASA budget below $17 billion is probably not a good idea,” Nye told the Star-News. “For the U.S. economy, nothing stimulates innovation like space exploration. It leads to things like the Internet. It leads to smartphones. When we don’t invest in space, we don’t innovate.”