Let NASA Pursue a Balanced Planetary Exploration Program, Planetary Society
"We must also emphasize that the serious budget cuts to NASA's Planetary Science Division have not been averted. The new rover mission is conceived to fit within the already reduced budget environment proposed by the Obama Administration in February 2012, which, if fully implemented, would result in deep cuts across the entire planetary exploration program. Likely outcomes include early termination of ongoing missions, including the Cassini orbiter at Saturn and the MESSENGER orbiter at Mercury; delays of future missions in the Discovery and New Frontiers programs; and reductions in basic research grants that fund current and future scientists. It also precludes a mission to Europa, long-considered one of the most compelling and scientifically rich destinations in the solar system. A strategic mission to Europa is prioritized as a close second to a caching mission to Mars in the Decadal Survey. We find the shift in budgetary priority deeply troubling. Namely, it represents a step backwards from our nation's long commitment to exploration and the pursuit of answers to the big questions of "where do we come from?" and "are we alone?"
"In summary, we support the decision by NASA to pursue a 2020 Mars rover mission as long as it fits within the specific recommendations of the Decadal Survey, which include both scientific and cost-cap guidance, and is part of a balanced exploration portfolio. We urge Congress and the Administration to maintain NASA's leadership in planetary science by restoring the division's budget to FY12 levels of $1.5 billion per year."