JPL Open House

A JPL Open House in 2010 was themed "Worlds Beyond" and featured displays from numerous space missions, JPL's next space craft bound for Mars, and a number of other exhibits. (File photo / May 16, 2010)

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) on Thursday expressed just as much disappointment regarding the suspension of the annual open house at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory as just about everyone else in the science community.

The Los Angeles Times reported Thursday that JPL is suspending the open house in La Cañada Flintridge that had been scheduled for June 8 and 9, making the popular yearly gathering the latest casualty of the automatic federal budget cuts known as sequestration.

The “difficult decision” to put off the event was reached Tuesday, JPL spokeswoman Veronica McGregor said in an e-mail to The Times.  “If we can hold it later in the year after the budgetary dust settles, we will.”

The decision will almost surely be a universally unpopular one given that each year it attracts thousands of lookie-loos to the high-tech campus.

Casey Dreier, advocacy and outreach specialist at the Planetary Society, the Pasadena-based space exploration advocacy group told The Times they were "very disappointed" with the decision.

“It’s one of the most productive and effective and inspiring things JPL does for the community,” he said.

In a statement on Thursday, Schiff said the cancellation of the open house was the result of “extremely poor fiscal policy – sequestration” and that it served to undermine an important aspect of NASA: education.

In the absence of avoiding sequestration completely, he said "we should do everything possible to save efforts that are incredibly successful in inspiring a new generation of American scientists and pioneers, like NASA’s outreach and education programs."

JPL was in the process of reviewing its public outreach efforts last month amid pressure to cut costs from NASA, which is grappling with federal spending reductions.

At the time, McGregor said the La Cañada Flintridge research facility would be submitting a list of traveling exhibits, speaker events and other outreach programs planned for May 1 to Sept. 30.

-- Jason Wells, jason.wells@latimes.com

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