NASA funding

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden talks with scientists and engineers at JPL next to a duplicate of the Mars Rover Curiosity in 2012. (Tim Berger / Staff Photographer / February 22, 2012)

The House Appropriations Committee has restored nearly $100 million to NASA’s planetary science division, which funds missions at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge, officials announced Thursday.

“It’s definitely good news for JPL and good news for planetary science fans around the country,” said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) in an interview.

President Obama’s 2014 budget proposal includes about $1.2 billion for the agency’s planetary science division, around $200 million less than the previous year. But the Appropriations Committee recently passed a budget package that sets aside $1.3 billion for exploring other planets.

Schiff said he hopes to restore even more money to bring the planetary science budget in line with 2013 funding levels.

Congress rejects the cuts to planetary science that the [Obama] administration has now proposed two years in a row,” he said.

Like last year, Schiff said he hopes the Senate will also restore part of the planetary science budget because senators operating on a larger budget than the House.

The announcement comes one week after NASA revealed the science goals for its newest Mars rover, which is scheduled to launch in 2020 and land on the planet in 2021. The yet-to-be-named rover is expected to mimic the look and design of its predecessor, Curiosity.

The space agency also has plans to send a spacecraft to Europa, one of Jupiter's moons.

NASA officials did not offer a comment.

“It’s inappropriate for us to comment on any budgetary items on this point,” said NASA spokesman Dwayne Brown.

Schiff has maintained that it’s important to fund planetary science missions, in part to keep the nation’s top scientists and engineers at NASA.

“There are enormous technological advantages that come out of the space program,” he said. “I think it’s an issue of economic competitiveness.”

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Follow Tiffany Kelly on Google+ and on Twitter: @LATiffanyKelly.

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