Mars Exploration Program by NASA is going through disastrous passages. President Donald Trump reduced the budget proposal for this project in the fiscal year 2021 (FY). Thus, this activity, resultantly, would also reduce the collaborative teamwork enthusiasm of orbiters. It would also influence Mars Rower, which since 2012 has been marauding the Red Planet.
Effects of Funding Shortfall on Today’s Discoveries
However, if they ignored the required budget changes, it would create a pause in research history. But there is no compromise on purposeful communications and Mars Odyssey, science orbiter, which is under operation from 2001. It would influence the Curiosity as it discovers new horizons in growing science inquiries on Mount Sharp in Gale Crater. The funding gap would also cause a pause in the rover’s workout as close it tills the next year. Furthermore, in this gap, it can discover a chief evolution in Mars Climate on high rocks and mountains.
The FY 2021 budget, unfortunately, lowers the scientific investigations of NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) up to 20%. It reduces the research on different observations of MRO (even removes half of them). Consequently, it would cut the special observations and data results that are associated with it.
What is the Purpose of MRO?
MRO is a double-functioning orbiter, just like Mars Odyssey, that spreads vital space data. Additionally, it also gives information about possible landing sites by telling their high-resolution imagery.
The reduction in the budget would badly affect the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft. It would result in the lowering of scientific operations to a minimal number. MAVEN, that orbits around Mars since 2014, permits scientists to investigate the continuous change in the planet’s atmosphere. The process changed the environment of Mars from a hot, wet surrounding to its current waterless, dry and cold state.
A meeting was held in mid-April, where more than 100 Mars-research related scientists took part. NASA scheduled this meeting with the name, the Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group (MEPAG). Here, they discussed different circumstances and plans to investigate the planet within the given budget. All the members attended meeting online, definitely, due to the current pandemic COVID-19 situation. It is another hurdle in the progress of the Mars operation but more hurting for the federal government than others. For the betterment of U.S. economy, D.C. with Washington, now donating loads of dollars. However, the budget for NASA and other related activities would remain indeterminate but significant enough to operate.
Statement of Director of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program
Jim Watzin, while addressing the MEPAG members told, “COVID-19 has had an impact on the program and what we do.” According to him, almost three-quarters of people working on NASA have transferred their working strategies to the virtual side. Excitingly it was “still too early to accurately forecast the impacts.”
However, researchers are also working on further investigations of the Red Planet yet another difficulty. Although, they have little to do with it as compared to Mars and COVID-19 situation. They have started the operation on creating the Planetary Science and Astrobiology Decadal Survey 2023–2032. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine started this efficient once-in-a-year effort. Besides, it mentions research urgencies and national undertakings to accomplish them within the next era. With the rising flood of science and technology, most scientists are now going towards other termini from Mars. The icy moons having seawater like Jupiter’s Europa and Saturn’s Titan and Enceladus are the next destinations. When this era expires, the researchers would be more voracious to explore other plants than about Mars. Would this new Decadal Survey mark new destination for researchers when they Passover Mars?
A Complementary Turn in NASA’s History
The director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division, Lori Glaze mentions that they always set their goals and achieve them within the limitation of the given budgets.
“Last year required many difficult decisions: invest in the future, continue what we’ve been doing or find some balance in between. All strong organizations do this. Mars exploration is no different.”
Thus, the compromising act results are poignant, Glaze added. The belt-tightening results of that balancing act have been bittersweet, Glaze says. “We share the community’s disappointments, as well as look optimistically toward our new missions. We know we did our best within the constraints we had. So, we will continue to look for opportunities to minimize or offset the reductions as we move forward. Each year we revisit the budget, its constraints, and work to improve the posture and potential of the program.”
NASA’s next Mars mission—the Perseverance rover
The Perseverance rover is ready to liftoff this July or August, NASA’s next Mars investigation operation. It is a determined international strategy to get samples of Martian substances on Earth. The researchers decided that the rover land in Jazero Crater (a place which is famous to have microbial life) in 2021. The rolled robot will gather and store samples of an astrobiological curiosity.
Glaze mentioned that it required over $2.4 billion to manufacture and launch Perseverance to space. It added more than $300 million that was first decided for this mission. Furthermore, an additional $300 million is the demand to run the rover during its major task on Mars for one year (about 687 Earth days).
You can also read more: https://hootrabbit.com/nasas-next-mars-rover-perseverance-for-school-students/
The news of budget shortening for NASA’s Mars plans went to the White House’s Office of Management and Budget. Resultantly, says John Logsdon, they’re going to punish the agency for overrunning cost. He is an expert of space policy and history at George Washington University.
“It would be really shortsighted if that penalty undercut the growing momentum. That’s finally moving forward on a Mars Sample Return effort.” Logsdon adds. The arrival of Mars samples for analysis to Earth is a great work for global researchers. It is also highly important for Decadal Surveys.
“There has to be a better way of enforcing cost control on NASA’s science efforts without jeopardizing their reason for existence.” Logsdon says, “As the country deals with the costs of the pandemic, we need to preserve some of our high-priority future research efforts. Mars exploration should be among them.”
Zurek Views About the Mars Exploration Budget
The budget for the Mars Exploration Program is unable to aid the sample-return effort of multibillion-dollar. As other operations are also working like Mars Odyssey, MRO, MAVEN and Curiosity, says Richard Zurek. He is an MRO mission associate and also main Mars researcher at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Zurek added more that if Congress accepted it then the FY 2021 budget would show main results on every Mars mission. And the data these missions provide is massive, he adds, the cost of substituting the substructure would be vast. Specifically, the Curiosity rover could run for many years without massive funding as it is based on nuclear power. Unluckily, if the scientists end to work on one mission, it would become more difficult than impossible to restart it.
“There is still so much to do at Mars,” Zurek tells. “This is a dynamic planet whose surface and atmosphere change on many timescales: hours to decades.” If the U.S. pares back its operations there, he adds, “we will not know what we have lost for a very long time.”
“I’m worried that the budget threat is real,” says Philip Christensen, a Mars Odyssey team member at Arizona State University. He is a prime detective of the spacecraft’s Thermal Emission Imaging System.
COVID-19 is the main source of threat for NASA and its running projects. “The uncertainty of the next few years, NASA would do well to maintain the working assets at Mars. And keep them active until the next missions arrive,” he adds.
A key enabler of NASA’s ongoing success at the Red Planet is the agency’s continuous orbital imaging presence there since 1997. That lofty perspective allows weather monitoring, remote studies of the conditions surrounding ongoing surface missions and better assessments for the viability of future landing sites.
The success story extender of NASA at the Red Planet is the agency’s continuous orbital imaging present since 1997. That supercilious standpoint helps to:
Christensen & W. Bruce Point of Views
“If Odyssey [was] turned off, and something happened to MRO, then that continuous U.S. orbital imaging record and presence would be lost,” Christensen says. There are European Space Agency orbiters that accumulate pictures, he adds, but NASA does not switch them. Moreover, Christensen records, the United Arab Emirates, India and China are all forecasting to launch Mars orbiter missions in the near future. “They are working extremely hard to just get to Mars and go into orbit,” Christensen says. “It seems a bit arrogant to think that the U.S. is so good at getting to Mars that we can turn off a perfectly good, working spacecraft when other countries are doing everything they can just to get there.”
“I am very concerned about the possible loss of Odyssey as a relay asset for my mission,” says W. Bruce Banerdt. He is the principal investigator of NASA’s InSight Mars lander, where he studied the planet’s seismic activity. “There are other avenues for communicating with InSight, and we would still be able to operate and perform our science if Odyssey were to go away. But we have not yet found any scenario without Odyssey that does not significantly affect our science.”
Bruce Jakosky Shared His Thoughts
However, there is pandemic and budget shortening but we can still find something optimistic in this period. “A large fraction of the country is out of work, and people are sick and dying. So, it’s hard for the country to focus on other activities right now,” says Bruce Jakosky. He is an environmental researcher at the University of Colorado Boulder and prime researcher of the MAVEN mission. “That said, the science and exploration activities within NASA have been seen as having high value for decades, and I don’t see that changing. They were worth doing before the pandemic, and I expect them to be worth doing after the pandemic, too.”
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