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NASA Administrator to Visit JPL, Meet With Mars Team on Wednesday

Unclear what Bolden will tell JPL employees

Published on Thursday, February 16, 2012 | 8:01 pm

Will a visit by NASA Administrator Charles Bolden calm the minds of scientists and employees of Pasadena’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory when he speaks to them next Wednesday? Uncertainty hangs over facility after the disclosure of NASA’s budget earlier this week raised the possibility of cutbacks.

NASA administrators dodged direct questions about the effect on JPL during Monday’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, “We are having to make tough decisions.”

Bolden will visit the Pasadena facility on Wednesday, Feb. 22, where he is scheduled to meet with the team of the Mars Science Laboratory. NASA’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 mission’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 Obama’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 agency’s robotic Mars mission and is directly affected by employees at JPL. According to experts, NASA’s 2013 budget request calls for a $226 million decrease in funding for Mars exploration.

During a stop at JPL’s mission control, Bolden is expected to answer questions about NASA’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. JPL’s website is

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