The Planetary Society applauds the recommendation by the House Sub-Committee on Appropriations for VA, HUD, and Independent Agencies to increase the NASA budget to enable the Pluto-Kuiper Belt, New Horizons, mission to proceed and to re-start development of a Europa orbiter.
The Society has long advocated both missions, demonstrating its support in testimony to the House Sub-Committee and in member letters to Congress.
"The support of Congress and the public interest in Pluto, the Kuiper Belt, and Europa, have been steadfast," said Louis Friedman, Executive Director of The Planetary Society. "We hope this latest recommendation will end the Administration's opposition to new missions for outer planet exploration."
Friedman noted that the recent discovery of a large planet-like object located beyond the orbit of Pluto in the Kuiper Belt heightens interest in that region of space even more.
"There is still so much out there in our solar system to be discovered and revealed," said Friedman.
The Senate Appropriations Committee has already added funds for the Pluto-Kuiper Belt mission to the budget. The House also added funding for the Europa mission that had been cancelled by the Administration. This will have to be resolved in conference with the Senate, which did not include such funding.
The Europa orbiter would launch later in the decade, after the Pluto-Kuiper Belt mission. There is strong evidence that Europa has an ocean beneath its icy surface, and the Europa mission would determine the location and distribution of this ocean in order to pursue the notion that this ocean might harbor extraterrestrial life.
The fiscal year 2003 NASA budget will not be finalized until passage of the bill in the House Appropriations Committee is followed by approval of the mission by the full Congress. That budget has not yet been acted upon.
For the past two years, The Planetary Society has led the public campaign for exploration of the outer solar system, especially in regards to missions to Pluto and Europa. For more information, go to the Society's Pluto Campaign page at http://www.planetary.org/html/UPDATES/Pluto/pluto_europa_action.html.