U.S. planetary scientists are holding out hope that Congress will restore funding cuts to planetary exploration, and especially the Mars program, in President Barack Obama’s budget request for fiscal 2013, Space Policy Online reports.

Members of the National Research Council’s Committee on Astrobiology and Planetary Science (CAPS), who held their first meeting May 23, questioned the U.S. withdrawal from the ExoMars mission with Europe that aims to return samples of martian soil to Earth — the top priority for flagship missions in the council’s planetary science decadal survey.

During an exchange with White House officials, CAPS members stressed the difficulty of planning missions when budget projections suddenly change, and asked why planetary science was singled out for cuts. Tammy Dickinson of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy said the cuts were “not a penalty to planetary or to NASA.” She suggested the planetary science community could do a better job of explaining the relevance of its work to other national priorities.