“The Mars program is one of the crown jewels of NASA. In what irrational, Homer Simpson world would we single it out for disproportionate cuts?” So asks Ed Weiler, who retired from NASA last year after serving as the agency’s associate administrator for science, in an interview with ScienceInsider. Weiler said he decided to leave NASA after tiring of “debilitating” fights with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) about the budget. According to Weiler, OMB had targeted the ExoMars program—the joint program with Europe for orbiters and landers—for cuts even when NASA proposed alternatives, such as smaller across-the-board cuts in the planetary program. “I was dealing with officials in OMB who were three, four grade levels below me who did not have any technical background,” he complained. Weiler is now in retirement in Florida, “a thousand miles away from the irrationality zone.” (Others have argued that Weiler is not exactly free of blame for the current situation, since he ran NASA’s science program as the James Webb Space Telescope’s costs grew, causing budget pressures that led to the current situation.)
Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA), whose district includes JPL, said Thursday he will also fight the proposed budget cut to NASA’s planetary program. Schiff, who serves on the appropriations subcommittee whose jurisdiction includes NASA, told the Pasadena Star-News that he had a “tense” meeting Thursday with NASA administrator Charles Bolden. “What I’m hearing that they’re proposing will be absolutely devastating to planetary science and the Mars program,” Schiff said. “If this is what they have in mind, I’m going to be fighting them tooth and nail.” He said he anticipates working with another subcommittee member, Rep. John Culberson (R-TX), who has also spoken out against the proposed cuts, to fight the cut.