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NASA May Cut Planet Exploration Missions

WASHINGTON, Feb. 11 (UPI) — NASA budget cuts could threaten the U.S. space agency’s efforts to explore Mars and other planets using robot missions, U.S. scientists say.

Scott Hubbard, the former leader of the National Atmospheric and Space Administration’s Mars team, said reduced funding could set back planetary exploration considerably by delaying development of new technology, Florida Today reported. Hubbard now teaches at Stanford University.

NASA plans to release its five-year budget plan Monday.

“It is a tough year,” John Logsdon, professor emeritus at George Washington University, told the newspaper. “A flat budget would be a success for NASA, and a more likely outcome is a modest cut.”

In addition to the universal problem of austere budgets in an era of lower revenues and growing deficits, NASA has its own financial constraints. The Obama administration is anxious to push forward with a replacement for the space shuttle, and the James Webb Space Telescope, which is scheduled to launch in 2018 as a replacement for the Hubble, has been plagued by cost overruns.

“My impressions are that the planetary science program may be in deep trouble,” Hubbard said.

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