More Money For Pluto (and Europa) ?

A loose bipartisan consensus is falling into place in the U.S. House of Representatives to add some $60 million to NASA's FY 2003 budget earmarked specifically for NASA's on/off/on again Pluto-Kuiper Belt mission (now known in reincarnated form as the New Horizons mission). Legislative language would also be added to restore NASA's Outer Planets Program breathing potential life back into a mission to Europa.

Congress added $30 million to the FY 2002 Budget for the Pluto mission. The President' s FY 2003 budget then omitted the outer planets program entirely including both the planned Europa and Pluto missions. There is some sentiment in Congress to link these funds to something that NASA - and Administrator O'Keefe in particular - wants in the FY 2003 budget so as to make certain it gets spent where Congress wants it spent. This is only half of what would be needed to in FY2003 to conduct the Pluto mission as currently planned.

  • 26 April 2002: Update: Efforts to restore funding to a Pluto mission in the House have upped the amount that will be added to NASA's FY 2003 budget to $120 million - the amount required to keep the current mission on its original schedule.

    Office of Space Flight Associate Administrator Ed Weiler has said that he welcomes input from the scientific community on priorities in space science missions and that he will take into account any recommendations from the community with regard to missions to Europa and Pluto.

    The NASA Advisory Council's Solar System Exploration Subcommittee (SSES) and the Division of Planetary Science (DPS) of the American Astronomical Society have already given their strong endorsement for the Pluto and Europa missions.

    A "Decadal Survey of Solar System Exploration" covering all aspects of planetary research (based upon input from the space science community) is currently in the final review process at the National Academy of Science. The final report is widely expected to give missions to Pluto and Europa very high ranking. The report is due to be released this summer.

    Sean O'Keefe will testify on NASA's FY 2003 budget before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Veterans, Housing and Urban Development next week. This subcommittee is chaired by Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD). The New Horizons Pluto mission is managed by the Applied Physics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University - in Maryland. Additional work is being done at Goddard Space Flight Center - also in Maryland. Mikulski has a habit of vigorously defend things in her home state.

    Stay tuned.

    Related links

  • A New Strategy for Solar System Exploration, NAS
  • New Horizons (Pluto mission) Website, Applied Physics Lab

    Background Information

  • 15 April 2002: New Horizons Pluto-Kuiper Belt Mission Makes Good Progress, Receives Important Endorsements, SWRI
  • 15 April 2002: Planetary Society to Congress: Restore Pluto and Europa Missions!
  • 3 April 2002: Solar System Exploration Subcommittee (SSES) Findings and Recommendations 31 Mar 2002
  • 27 February 2002: Testimony by Sean O'Keefe on NASA's FY 2003 Budget before the House Science Committee
  • 21 February 2002: New Horizons Team Plots a Faster Path to Pluto Spacecraft Could Reach Distant Planet by 2015, SWRI
  • 12 February 2002: Message from the DPS Chair on NASA's Budget
  • 8 February 2002: Decadal Survey Prioritization of Past and Potential Discoveries (preliminary)
  • 7 February 2002: DPS Comments on the proposed FY2003 budget for NASA, American Astronomical Society
  • 6 February 2002: NASA's Budget: Back to the Future - and to Basics, SpaceRef
  • 5 February 2002: The President's FY2003 Budget for Research and Development - an analysis by the House Science Committee Minority Staff
  • 4 February 2002: 50,000 People Jam Planetary Society Website to Take Space Survey about NASA Priorities
  • 4 February 2002: President's Budget Cancels Current Outer Planets Plan in Favor of Developing Nuclear Propulsion and Power for Mars Landers  and Future Outer Planets Probes, Planetary Society
  • 4 February 2002: NASA FY 2003 Budget Narratives, NASA HQ: Office of Space Science (Code S)
  • 7 December 2001: NASA Goddard Joins Team to Explore the Solar System's Final Frontier
  • 30 November 2001: NASA Taps Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab Team For First Pluto-Kuiper Belt Mission
  • 29 November 2001: NASA Selects Pluto-Kuiper Belt Mission for Phase B Study, NASA HQ
  • 7 November 2001: Victory! House-Senate Conference Approves Pluto Mission Funding, Planetary Society
  • 28 September 2001: Scientists and Engineers Complete NASA-Funded Phase A Study Of Pluto-Kuiper Belt Mission, SWRI
  • 6 June 2001: NASA Selects Two Investigations for Pluto-Kuiper Belt Mission Feasibility Studies, NASA HQ
  • 21 December 2000: NASA Reconsiders a Mission to Pluto, SpaceRef
  • 20 December 2000: Pluto-Kuiper Belt Mission AO, Commerce Business Daily 20 Dec 2000
  • 20 December 2000: On to Pluto? - The Planetary Society Statement, Planetary Society
  • 20 December 2000: NASA Seeks Proposals for Pluto Mission; Plans to Restructure Outer Planets Program, NASA HQ

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