18Mar2017

Nasa’s Europa Mission On The Budget Cutting Room Floor

europa surface jupiter illustration nasa

europa surface jupiter illustration nasa

Surprise surprise! NASA’s hopes of landing a robot on the icy moon of Europa in the search for life have been dashed under proposed new cuts to the space program.

Under US President Donald Trump’s proposed budget, NASA’s funding would stay largely intact but the space agency would be forced to abandon plans to lasso an asteroid, along with four Earth and climate missions.

The 2018 budget — which must yet be approved by Congress — asks for $19.1 billion for NASA, a 0.8 per cent decrease from 2017, allowing the space agency to emerge unscathed compared to the deep cuts laid out for other federal science, education and environmental agencies.

The budget proposal “focuses the nation’s efforts on deep space exploration rather than Earth-centric research,” it said. Under the reallocation of funds, NASA’s Planetary Science division will get a 20.1 per cent funding boost. The Earth Sciences division gets a 13 per cent cut.

But the landing on Jupiter’s moon Europa — a mission to seek life in its under-ice ocean — was one of NASA’s ‘headline’ exploration projects. Funding remains for a 2020s ‘fly-by’ of Europa which hopes to use its sensors to confirm if there is a saltwater ocean under the ice, and identify a potential landing site.

But work on the lander itself will now be halted. “The Budget provides no funding for a multibillion-dollar mission to land on Europa,” the budget proposal document confirms. Its precursor, a satellite-probe, named Europa Clipper, remains part of the $US1.9 billion allocated to planetary science. Also proposed is a new Mars rover that would launch in 2020.

Europa Clipper is hoped to be shot into an orbit around the moon in the early 2020s, conducting some 45 low-level fly-bys to conduct a detailed survey of its surface. Such a mission, however, is incredibly difficult.

NASA’s Europa Clipper

 Jupiter’s harsh radiation is expected to limit the life of any probe to little more than a month. “Europa may hold the clues to one of NASA’s long standing goals — to determine whether or not we are alone in the universe,” a report released by NASA last year states. “The highest-level science goal of the mission … is to search for evidence of life on Europa.”

The proposed lander was hoped to follow in 2025. The Trump budget also axes a multi-billion dollar plan championed by former president Barack Obama to lasso an asteroid and move it into orbit around the Moon for study in the 2020s.

But plans to keep building the manned Orion deep space capsule and what will be the world’s most powerful rocket, known as the Space Launch System (SLS), remain intact. These are designated to receive $3.7 billion.

NASA's Europa Clipper, a survey probe to be sent to Jupiter's moon Europa in the 2020s to make a detailed record of the ice-world's surface and seek signs of an ocean beneath.

NASA’s Europa Clipper, a survey probe to be sent to Jupiter’s moon Europa in the 2020s to make a detailed record of the ice-world’s surface and seek signs of an ocean beneath.Source:Supplied

Also on the chopping block are four Earth science missions, saving around $102 million. “The Budget terminates four Earth science missions (PACE, OCO-3, DSCOVR Earth-viewing instruments, and CLARREO Pathfinder) and reduces funding for Earth science research grants,” the budget document states.

These include shutting off the cameras on the new deep space climate observatory called DSCOVR — launched in 2015 — and was initially a project of former vice president Al Gore. It will now lie dormant in space. Three other satellites under construction to track global warming and ocean health will reportedly not be launched.

NASA’s $115 million Office of Education is “duplicative” and would be eliminated, “resulting in a more focused education effort through NASA’s Science Mission Directorate,” said the budget proposal. “This is a positive budget overall for NASA,” said acting administrator of the US space agency, Robert Lightfoot. “As with any budget, we have greater aspirations than we have means, but this blueprint provides us with considerable resources to carry out our mission, and I know we will make this nation proud.”

Experts said the budget proposal released Thursday acts as a starting point. A more comprehensive budget plan is still in the works and should be ready in the coming months. The figures must be debated in the House and Senate and sent back to the president for approval.

Jupiter’s harsh radiation is expected to limit the life of any probe to little more than a month. “Europa may hold the clues to one of NASA’s long standing goals — to determine whether or not we are alone in the universe,” a report released by NASA last year states. “The highest-level science goal of the mission … is to search for evidence of life on Europa.”

The proposed lander was hoped to follow in 2025. The Trump budget also axes a multi-billion dollar plan championed by former president Barack Obama to lasso an asteroid and move it into orbit around the Moon for study in the 2020s. But plans to keep building the manned Orion deep space capsule and what will be the world’s most powerful rocket, known as the Space Launch System (SLS), remain intact. These are designated to receive $3.7 billion.

Blinded Eyes

Also on the chopping block are four Earth science missions, saving around $102 million. “The Budget terminates four Earth science missions (PACE, OCO-3, DSCOVR Earth-viewing instruments, and CLARREO Pathfinder) and reduces funding for Earth science research grants,” the budget document states.

These include shutting off the cameras on the new deep space climate observatory called DSCOVR — launched in 2015 — and was initially a project of former vice president Al Gore. It will now lie dormant in space. Three other satellites under construction to track global warming and ocean health will reportedly not be launched.

NASA's proposed Europa Lander, a robot probe intended to seek signs of life under the Jupiter moon's ice.

NASA’s proposed Europa Lander, a robot probe intended to seek signs of life under the Jupiter moon’s ice.Source:Supplied

NASA’s $115 million Office of Education is “duplicative” and would be eliminated, “resulting in a more focused education effort through NASA’s Science Mission Directorate,” said the budget proposal. “This is a positive budget overall for NASA,” said acting administrator of the US space agency, Robert Lightfoot. “As with any budget, we have greater aspirations than we have means, but this blueprint provides us with considerable resources to carry out our mission, and I know we will make this nation proud.”

Experts said the budget proposal released Thursday acts as a starting point. A more comprehensive budget plan is still in the works and should be ready in the coming months. The figures must be debated in the House and Senate and sent back to the president for approval.

Statement On Fiscal Year 2018 Budget Proposal

Image result for nasa budget

The following is a statement from NASA acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot on the Fiscal Year 2018 agency budget proposal:

“The President mentioned in his speech to both houses of Congress that, ‘American footprints on distant worlds are not too big a dream.’ NASA is already working toward that goal, and we look forward to exciting achievements that this budget will help us reach. “NASA teams continue to do amazing work to develop and launch our missions and increase this nation’s technical capabilities across the board. America needs NASA more than ever, and the agency’s work every single day is vitally important.

“While more detailed budget information will be released in May, we have received a top line budget number for the agency as part of an overall government budget rollout of more than $19 billion. This is in line with our funding in recent years, and will enable us to effectively execute our core mission for the nation, even during these times of fiscal constraint.

“While the budget and appropriation process still has a long way to go, this budget enables us to continue our work with industry to enhance government capabilities, send humans deeper into space, continue our innovative aeronautics efforts and explore our universe.

“The budget supports our continued leadership in commercial space, which has demonstrated success through multiple cargo resupply missions to the International Space Station, and is on target to begin launches of astronauts from U.S. soil in the near future. “The budget also bolsters our ongoing work to send humans deeper into space and the technologies that will require. “As discussions about this budget proposal begin with Congress, we continue to operate under the funding provided by a Continuing Resolution that runs through April 28.

“Overall science funding is stable, although some missions in development will not go forward and others will see increases. We remain committed to studying our home planet and the universe, but are reshaping our focus within the resources available to us — a budget not far from where we have been in recent years, and which enables our wide ranging science work on many fronts. “This budget also keeps aeronautics on stable footing allowing us to continue our forward movement in many areas, including the New Aviation Horizons initiative.

“While this budget no longer funds a formal Office of Education, NASA will continue to inspire the next generation through our missions and channel education efforts in a more focused way through the robust portfolio of our Science Mission Directorate. We will also continue to use every opportunity to support the next generation through engagement in our missions and the many ways that our work encourages the public to discover more.

“We remain committed to the next human missions to deep space, but we will not pursue the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) with this budget. This doesn’t mean, however, that the hard work of the teams already working on ARM will be lost. We will continue the solar electric propulsion efforts benefitting from those developments for future in space transportation initiatives. I have had personal involvement with this team and their progress for the past few years, and am I extremely proud of their efforts to advance this mission.

“This is a positive budget overall for NASA. I want to reiterate that we are committed to NASA’s core mission of exploration — in all the ways we carry that out.  “As with any budget, we have greater aspirations than we have means, but this blueprint provides us with considerable resources to carry out our mission, and I know we will make this nation proud.”

Read previous post:
The man who made science sexy has embarked on his live tour, making highly complex ideas accessible to all in a brilliantly entertaining way.
ABC Presents Stargazing Live

One of the most exciting fields in astronomy, really, in...

kids-telescope
10 Telescopes That Are Perfect For Beginners

The night sky is always intriguing every time you look...

Uranus
Interesting Facts About Uranus

On this day, March 13, 1781 the 7th planet, Uranus,...

Close