12.17.07

Schiff, Culberson Help Secure Vital Funds for Core Jet Propulsion Laboratory Programs

Washington, DC – Late tonight, the House is expected to pass a bill which will include funding for three important programs being managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Reps. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and John Culberson (R-TX) announced.  Reps. Schiff and Culberson are members of the subcommittee charged with drafting the Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations funding part of the bill, which included funding for the SIM PlanetQuest, the Mars Exploration Program, and the Outer Planets program.  The funding is included in the Foreign Operations Appropriations/Consolidated Appropriations bill (H.R. 2764). This bill is also known as the omnibus appropriations bill for the Fiscal Year 2008, because it packages together several funding measures into one single bill.  The omnibus is necessary due to both the inability of the Senate to pass individual funding measures and the President’s vetoes.

“The space program brings together some of the nation’s greatest minds in pursuit of some of the nation’s greatest hopes and aspirations,” Schiff said.  “In addition to expanding our understanding of the cosmos, the space program is responsible for many of the technological advancements we benefit from everyday.  It is essential that America continues to lead the exploration of the universe if we as a nation want to keep our competitive edge in the global economy.”

“Congressman Schiff and I have worked arm in arm from the beginning to ensure that our nation's space program is the best in the world, and that the exciting space missions led by JPL are fully funded. Great scientific and engineering achievements always accompany space exploration, which benefits all mankind.  I am especially pleased that Adam and I were successful in winning full funding for the successful Mars program, the SIMS mission, which will identify the solar system we will ultimately visit in our first interstellar space mission, and the outer planet mission to the water world Europa, which has as much liquid salt water in its oceans as Earth.  I am immensely proud to support NASA and JPL," said Congressman John Culberson.

“Today, Congress renewed its commitment to remaining the world leader in space exploration -- and that's fabulous news," said JPL Director, Dr. Charles Elachi.  "This funding is critical to advancing our understanding of our planet and our universe.  I thank Congressmen Schiff and Culberson for their continuing support to NASA, space science and keeping our nation on the forefront of exploration."

The bill contains $60 million for the development phase of the SIM program, which will determine more accurately the positions and distances of stars throughout the galaxy and probe nearby stars for Earth-sized planets.  To accomplish this, SIM will use optical interferometry technology to develop telescopes powerful enough to take images of Earth-like planets orbiting distant stars and attempts to determine whether these planets can sustain life. Reps. Schiff and Culberson fought hard to maximize SIM funding above the President’s request, and the $60 million amount is $39 million more than expected.

Reps. Schiff and Culberson also worked hard to ensure robust funding of the Mars work at JPL, and the bill included $626.4 million to continue the Mars Exploration Program.  The Mars program is the centerpiece of NASA’s exploration of our planetary neighbors.  The funding included in this bill will enable JPL to continue its program of launching a mission to the Red Planet every 26 months.  The Mars Phoenix Lander, which is to be launched in August, is the next step in our search for evidence that Mars once had conditions that would have supported life.  The resources in this measure will fund this mission, the Mars Science Laboratory that is due to launch in 2009, as well as future missions.  Importantly, it will also continue to fund the work of the rovers “Spirit” and “Opportunity,” which are still exploring Mars almost four years after landing there.

Lastly, Reps. Schiff and Culberson successfully sought $5 million for NASA’s Outer Planets Program.  This funding will be used to begin the initial concept development of a new mission to the outer planets.