US: Budget proposal shot in the arm for NASA's Mars dreams
Washington, Feb 3: The US space agency, NASA has welcomed the White House proposal by Barack Obama to increase spending for the agency, and added that it will boost its chances to reach Mars and other deep space missions.
The $18.5 billion budget request for the fiscal year 2016 - a $500 million boost over the 2015 budget - includes funding for developing a mission to Jupiter's moon Europa, and the agency's asteroid redirect mission (ARM), said NASA chief Charles Bolden, during an address at Kennedy Space Centre in Florida.
"NASA is firmly on a journey to Mars. Make no mistake, this journey will help guide and define our generation," Bolden added.
The Orion spacecraft programme, designed to bring humans to deep-space destinations like Mars - and Space Launch System (SLS) mega-rocket are funded under the budget request, Space.com reported.
Orion is expected to receive about $1.1 billion for 2016, with the SLS receiving about $1.35 billion.
If the budget request are finalised, NASA could end the long-running and ageing Opportunity rover's mission on Mars next year.
"President Obama's budget request of $18.5 billion, a half-billion dollar increase over last year, is a clear vote of confidence in NASA's ambitious exploration programme," Bolden stated.
Other programmes funded in the budget includes the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope - the successor to Hubble.
Bolden sees NASA's future as bright. "That the idea we are adrift is an empty hook trying to catch yesterday's fish. I could not be more excited about our future. We are making steady progress and continuing to reach for new heights," Bolden said.
The new budget request also includes funds for the continuation of the Commercial Crew Programme, designed to help private companies create space systems that can ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station.