NASA cuts space exploration budget: We may never get to Mars

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Dec 16, 2012

The American spirit for space exploration admittedly leveled off a bit once we made it to the moon in the '60s and '70s, but after some recent cuts to the NASA budget, it looks like we may never get to Mars.

NASA is chopping $310 million from the Planetary Science division next year, an approximately 20 percent cut that affects everything from future Mars missions to moon projects.

It's the lowest budget the space agency has seen in the past four years.

"Science is the part of NASA that's actually conducting interesting and scientifically important missions," Planetary Society CEO Bill Nye said in a statement reported by Fox News. "Spacecraft sent to Mars, Saturn, Mercury, the Moon, comets, and asteroids have been making incredible discoveries, with more to come from recent launches to Jupiter, the Moon, and Mars. The country needs more of these robotic space exploration missions, not less."

To his credit, NASA administrator Charles Bolden has said the move won't be that devastating, noting it "moves the Agency forward strongly on a path that will maintain America's preeminence in space exploration."

Of all NASA's divisions, Planetary Science—the group that handles Mars exploration—was arguably affected the most. The budget has been cut from $1.5 billion this year to $1.2 billion in 2013. A robotic Mars mission is already in the pipe for 2013, but beyond that it could be a while until we send anything else that way. NASA says the new budget "restructures future long-term Mars missions to better integrate our science and human Mars exploration efforts."

For the Planetary Society, the move means one thing: There's no telling how long it could take for a manned mission to finally land on the red planet.

In a statement, the group says the latest moves will see NASA "walk away from planned missions to Mars, delay for decades any flagship missions to the outer planets, and radically slow the pace of scientific discovery, including the search for life on other worlds."

(via Fox News).