Bait and Switch

I am a planetary scientist who is currently attending the MEPAG (Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group) meeting in Monrovia, Calif.
 I am writing this letter because I believe that the successes of Mars exploration are being threatened from within. The current NASA associate administrator for Science,
Alan Stern, is baiting the Mars community with what I believe is a bait and switch. He has asked us to do a Mars Sample Return mission by 2020 (which many Mars scientists desperately want), but says our budget will be
cut by more than 50
 percent. We feel like we have been backed into a corner where we have no choice.

The truth is that there is no way we could do a successful Mars Sample Return
with all the new technology development — while maintaining current skills
 such as landing on Mars
 — on a budget that is less than half of what it is now. I have military experience
— do not ask me to accomplish a mission without providing the resources necessary to accomplish it.

I am afraid that Alan Stern is setting the Mars community up to fail. I do not expect you to take one man’s word — but the media and Congress might be our only hope. I do not ask that we be given whatever we want;
I do ask that we be given the resources to accomplish the mission. If NASA can’t fund us at that level,
then be honest with us and the American people
and only ask of us what they can fund. The Mars Exploration Program is a success story — let’s not destroy it too quickly.

Name withheld by request