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California's 40th District

Nov 29, 2023 | In The News

The San Fernando Valley Sun

Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.-30) and a bipartisan, bicameral group of lawmakers urged NASA Administrator Bill Nelson to reverse unilateral funding cuts to the Mars Sample Return (MSR) mission, which would result in the loss of hundreds of California jobs.

In the letter sent to Nelson on Nov. 22, the lawmakers strongly opposed the cuts to the mission that would prevent the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) from making its 2030 launch window and lead to the cancelation of billions of dollars in contracts supporting American businesses. The letter was also signed by Sen. Laphonza Butler (D-Calif.) and Reps. Judy Chu (D-Calif.-28), Mike Garcia (R-Calif.-27) and Young Kim (R-Calif.-40).

This letter follows a request Padilla led last month urging Senate appropriations leadership to include at least $822 million for NASA to keep the MSR mission on schedule to launch by 2030.

“We write to express our strongest opposition to NASA’s recent unilateral and unprecedented decision to prematurely move forward with funding cuts to the Mars Sample Return (MSR) mission before Congress has finalized its Fiscal Year 2024 appropriations process,” the letter read. “This short-sighted and misguided decision by NASA will cost hundreds of jobs and a decade of lost science, and it flies in the face of Congressional authority.

“The 2023 Planetary Sciences Decadal Survey identified the completion of MSR as NASA’s highest scientific priority. Therefore, we are mystified by NASA’s rash decision to suggest at this stage of the appropriations process that any cuts would be necessary.

“NASA’s deeply short-sighted and misguided decision to unilaterally adjust the funding allocation granted to JPL to carry out the MSR mission violates Congress’s appropriations authority,” the letter continued. “Therefore, we strongly urge you to rescind NASA’s November 8th funding directive to JPL and not take any further steps to adjust funding levels for the mission until Congress enacts final FY24 appropriations for NASA.”

A recently commissioned Independent Review Board (IRB) assessment of the MSR Program’s implementation plan and management approach reiterated that MSR should be a national space exploration priority.

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