The Mars Curiosity rover might be hitting a snag as budget cuts loom on the horizon that may adversely affect its operation on the Red planet permanently.
Since 2012, the NASA Curiosity rover has been exploring the surface of the red planet, by collecting and analyzing rock samples from the Gale crater where it landed. Now, its activity might be threatened by budget restraints in 2021 to make NASA take stock of what to do. This is according to Curiosity project scientist Ashwin Vasavada.
Mars Curiosity rover in crisis
According to Dr Vasavada, the team is under a crisis and all because of the budget cuts, which is a big hit for everyone on the program.
The 2021 federal budget request and the White House has settled for $25 billion to fund NASA and all its programs and other activities relevant to it.
Allocation for important programs is the set up to concentrate on priority projects. One of them is the NASA Artemis programmer that got the bulk and others are on a diet. Not all NASA divisions got their required funding.
In the new proposed budget, the Mars Curiosity team will on have $40 million for its budget, which is a 20% cut from current funding as of now.
This funding circumstance is more critical as the pre-existing budget was cut by 13% in 2019, last year. All these budget cuts are detrimental, especially to the Curiosity rover which is not cheap to keep running.
Space.com said the suggested a budget is going to cause a scaling back of all projects and other operations of NASA scientists.
With the $40 million funding which will leave 40% of the overall capacity, the project will be rendered useless and ineffectual that wastes the potential of the Mars rover.
Cuts like these are not just a shallow gouge but it will affect projects that have yielded stunning results for NASA. One of these is the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which has been mapping Mars, with the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution spacecraft. All dedicated autonomous systems that are giving more aspects of Mars.
The Curiosity rover touched down in the 96-mile-wide (154km) Gale Crater in August 2012. It began the most ambitious mapping and investigation missions in the history of space travel.
Its goal is to map and determine if the Planet Mars was once a habitable planet in the past.
Gale Crater was chosen because it might be what is left of an ancient Martian lake, which might have evidence of microbial life in the Martian soil. Costs for NASA is about $2.5 billion to send the Curiosity to Mars, but some success with organic compounds in Martian soil.
From 2014, the Mars rover is moving through the Mount Sharp, which is an 18,000ft-high peak in the center of Gale Crater. The region of Gale Crater is rich in clay-like sediments, that might have been water in the planet's past.
The goal is the summit of Mount Sharp because NASA wants to confirm a nearby formation dubbed the Greenheugh Pediment. One theory that needs confirming is where there is a source of water, on top of the mount.
Dr Vasavado added, "This is just a huge climate signature that we want to be able to explore." Richard Zurek, Mars Principal Investigator mentioned that more needs to be done in Mars.
Even with the budget cuts, Mars Curiosity Rover will go on, but if budget cuts get low, there will still be other projects to explore Mars.