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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

US House Panel Pushs Mars Sample Return

Painting of Mars sample return by Pat Rawlings for NASA.
A House of Representatives spending panel has proposed a NASA budget for 2013 that allocates $150 million toward the development of a Mars sample return mission within the next decade. The bill, drafted by the House appropriations subcommittee for commerce, science and justice, includes language that would forbid NASA from spending the money until the National Research Council (NRC) of the U.S. National Academies can certify that the mission concept chosen by the agency will lead to returning a martian sample to Earth.

If an NRC review of NASA's mission concept concludes that it will not lead to a sample return, the bill directs the agency to spend the $150 million on developing a mission to orbit Europa, one of Jupiter's icy moons, cites Science.

The Obama Administration's budget proposal being reviewed by Congress would cut NASA's Mars exploration programs and terminate a joint effort between Europe and the United States. Europe is now looking to Russia for assistance as a result. President Obama raised the spector of NASA having the goal of placing humans on the surface of Mars rather than the Moon in 2010.

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