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Sun, Feb 12, 2012

Ed Weiler Resigned From NASA Over Budget Cuts

The Agency Slashed The Planetary Sciences Program, Effectively Killing Joint Mars Mission With ESA

President Obama's proposed $300 million cut to the planetary sciences program in the FY 2013 NASA budget was what pushed Ed Weiler to resign from the agency last September, and that's the word directly from the former Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate.

Ed Weiler Official NASA Photo

In Weiler's view, the 20% cut in the program would spell an end to a planned joint mission to Mars with ESA, which he called one of the "crown jewels" of the space agency. He told ScienceInsider the cuts were "irrational."

The planetary sciences program has been cut from its current $1.5 billion to $1.2 billion in 2013, with a further reduction to $1 billion scheduled for 2017. Weiler said he had proposed an across-the-board cut of three percent to meet the budget targets.

OMB, however, singled out the joint ExoMars mission to first send a Trace Gas Orbiter to the planet in 2016, followed by European and U.S. Rovers in 2018. Weiler said that, after five successful Mars missions in a row, the cuts were "bizarre." He said NASA administrator Charles Bolden had managed to preserve the program in the 2010 budget, but the fight left him frustrated and spent.

Now retired, Weiler says he spends a lot of time walking on the beach near his Vero Beach, FL home. Though geographically not far from the space center in Cocoa Beach, he says it's a "thousand miles away from the irrationality zone."

FMI: www.nasa.gov, www.whitehouse.gov/omb/

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