While NASA says its support for a mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa is now aligned with Congress, project officials are preparing for a possible “squeeze” on mission funding in the next fiscal year.
In presentations at an Aug. 11 meeting of NASA’s Outer Planets Assessment Group (OPAG) in Flagstaff, Arizona, officials involved with what’s widely known as the Europa Clipper mission said they are looking for ways to cut costs in 2017 while keeping the mission on track for a 2022 launch.
“There is this squeeze in FY17 that we have,” said Bob Pappalardo, the mission’s project scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said. “We’re asking the instrument teams and various other aspects of the project, given that squeeze, what will it take in the out years to maintain that ’22 launch. We’re actively pursuing that question as we speak.”
Pappalardo didn’t elaborate on the budget details, but the administration’s request for the mission in its 2017 budget proposal, $49.6 million, is far less than the $175 million it received from Congress in 2016. There is uncertainty in Congress as well: a House appropriations bill for fiscal year 2017 offers $260 million for the Europa mission, yet a Senate bill, while “supportive” of the mission, does not explicitly allocate any funds for it. Neither bill has been passed by either chamber.