Mars

The NASA rover Curiosity's measurements of the Martian air found it's mostly made of carbon dioxide with traces of other gases, according to two studies appearing in the Friday issue of the journal Science. (NASA / July 19, 2013)

The Mars 2020 missions can remain on track and general funding for planetary science will be significantly boosted if a drafted proposal giving NASA $17.6 billion is approved, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) announced Wednesday. 

The draft proposal, which would allocate funds for the 2014 fiscal year, was released Wednesday by the U.S. House of Commerce Justice and Science Appropriations Subcommittee.

The president's March 2014 budget left $1.28 billion for planetary science and the overall funding, said Patrick Boland, spokesperson for Schiff. Overall funding in CJS Appropriations Bill for planetary will be at $1.45 billion, including a total of $302 million for the Mars program, and no less than $100 million will fund the Mars 2020 rover--which will meet the decadal goals of advancing a sample return. The bill also includes $100 million for a Europa Clipper mission to the Jupiter system, which could launch as early as 2021, Boland said. 

“I'm very pleased that the subcommittee has made such a strong investment in planetary science – one of the Crown Jewels of NASA's portfolio," Schiff said in a prepared statement. "With this funding increase, we will be able to keep Mars 2020 on track and begin an exciting new mission to Europa, two of the science community's highest priorities."

The funding boost would also continue to support already operating space studies that may have exceeded their estimated lives, Schiff explained. 

“Thanks to the brilliant scientists and engineers at NASA and JPL, we have the unique ability to design, fly and land sophisticated robots on our planetary neighbors, and if these projects are disrupted, we might lose this perishable and incredibly specialized talent pool," Schiff said.

In 2013, the White House officials requested $17.7 billion and received $17.5 billion for NASA funding. The White House requested $17.7 billion for 2014 and the proposal indicates $17.6 billion could be budgeted. 

The U.S. House of Commerce's Justice and Science Appropriations Subcommittee will vote on the draft proposal on Thursday, May 8. If approved, it heads to the Appropriations Committee, and if approved, representatives could debate the proposal on the house floor, Boland said.

Editor's Note: This post was updated to include more information.

-- Nicole Charky, nicole.charky@latimes.com

Follow on Twitter: @Nicosharki.

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