NASA is drastically scaling back its Mars exploration initiatives in exchange for smaller, more efficient missions, agency officials say.
NASA is fundamentally overhauling its Mars exploration strategy, ditching multibillion-dollar "flagship" missions in favor of cheaper, more efficient projects for now, agency officials announced Monday (Feb. 13).
The decision is a response to diminished funding for robotic exploration going forward. In his federal budget request for next year, which was revealed Monday (Feb. 13), President Barack Obama allocated $1.2 billion to NASA's planetary science programs — a 20 percent cut from the current allotment of $1.5 billion, with further reductions expected over the next several years.
The cut is spurring a shift in NASA thinking about the best way to study Mars in the near term. This shift compels the agency to withdraw from the European-led ExoMars missions, which aim to launch an orbiter and a drill-toting rover to the Red Planet in 2016 and 2018, respectively.
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