$4M NASA Cut May Strand Mars Rover

Shrinking budget could also leave 300 jobless
By Zach Samalin,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 24, 2008 8:38 PM CDT
NASA's Mars Rover Opportunity snaps a picture after a long drive. Opportunity will continue to rove, but its sister vehicle, Spirit, will be put to sleep following a $4M budget cut.   (AP Photo/NASA)
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(Newser) – NASA confirmed and denied plans today to scuttle a Mars rover and fire 300 employees, CNN reports. The space agency first announced a $4 million cut to the Mars program's $20 million budget and vowed to unplug one of two rovers roaming the red planet. Then a NASA spokesman told CNN that "the cancellation of the Mars Exploration Rovers is not under consideration."

"There is a process that has to be followed," he said. "There is an ongoing budget review within the agency's Mars exploration program." The proposed cut would offset overruns on a new rover called the Mars Science Laboratory; the program faces another $8 million cut for fiscal year 2009. For now NASA has two rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, combing the planet's rocky soil for signs of water.