WASHINGTON — NASA has canceled a planned Feb. 26-27 meeting of its Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group (MEPAG), saying it is unlikely that President Barack Obama will have released his 2014 budget request by then.
As SpaceNews reported last week, NASA and scores of other federal agencies are still awaiting their 2014 budget passback from the White House Office of Management and Budget. Obama is required by law to submit his budget request for the coming fiscal year by Feb. 4. However, three of his past four budget requests have been late.
NASA officials told planetary scientists last fall that they would update them in late February on the agency’s recently announced plans to send a Mars Science Laboratory-class rover to the red planet in 2020.
But as NASA notified scientists over the weekend, that briefing is now on hold.
“Delays in the federal budget process means that the President’s traditional budget message is unlikely to occur by the time of the presently scheduled February 26 and 27th MEPAG meeting in Washington D.C.,” MEPAG Chairman Dave Des Marais wrote in MEPAG meeting cancellation notice the Planetary Science Institute sent its members Jan. 13. “You are surely all aware of the announcement in December at the Fall [American Geophysical Union] meeting by Associate Administrator John Grunsfeld that NASA intends to launch a new rover to Mars in 2020. However, the 2020 Rover Science Definition Team is just now being formed and will not be far enough into its deliberations to give a meaningful out-brief in February.
“We have decided to cancel the two-day physical meeting and to replace it with a half-day electronic meeting (e.g., WEBEX), tentatively scheduled for the afternoon (EST) of either February 26 or 27,” Des Marais wrote.