Will a visit by NASA Administrator Charles Bolden calm the minds of scientists and employees of Pasadenaâ€™s Jet Propulsion Laboratory when he speaks to them next Wednesday? Uncertainty hangs over facility after the disclosure of NASAâ€™s budget earlier this week raised the possibility of cutbacks.
NASA administrators dodged direct questions about the effect on JPL during Mondayâ€™s budget press conference. When asked specifically how the budget cuts will affect the mission to Mars and those working at JPL, Bolden responded simply, â€œWe are having to make tough decisions.â€
Bolden will visit the Pasadena facility on Wednesday, Feb. 22, where he is scheduled to meet with the team of the Mars Science Laboratory. NASAâ€™s largest, most ambitious Mars mission ever, is currently en route to the Red Planet and many of the scientists and those involved with the project work at JPL.
Accompanied by JPL Director Charles Elachi, Bolden will address the missionâ€™s flight team inside the Space Flight Operations Facility, commonly known as Mission Control. He will also talk with the surface operations team in the Mars In-Situ Lab, where Mars rovers are tested.
President Obamaâ€™s proposed 2013 federal budget was released in full on Monday. Although it keeps NASA funding at about the same level next year, it cuts deep into the agencyâ€™s robotic Mars mission and is directly affected by employees at JPL. According to experts, NASAâ€™s 2013 budget request calls for a $226 million decrease in funding for Mars exploration.
During a stop at JPLâ€™s mission control, Bolden is expected to answer questions about NASAâ€™s proposed 2013 budget. What is unclear, however, is what he will tell employees at JPL about their future with NASA since much the robotic exploration projects will not be funded in the new budget.
As NASA Administrator, Bolden has held the post since July 2009. He is a former astronaut and a retired Marine Corps Major General. Elachi has served as JPL director since 2001 and is also a vice president of Caltech, which manages JPL for NASA.
The Jet Propulsion Laboratory is located at 4800 Oak Grove Drive in Pasadena. JPLâ€™s website is www.jpl.nasa.gov.