NASA’s budget has been slashed dramatically for 2012 in an effort by the US government to save money. NASA is working with that reduced budget and trying to keep all the programs it had planned to pursue in the works. One of the programs that saw money significantly shrink the budget cuts was NASA’s Mars exploration program known on budget documents as Mars Next Generation.
NASA has retooled the mission and has rounded up $30 million from other programs to help fund the Mars effort this year. The $30 million collected was taken from funds that had been allotted to work on other missions to the outer planets. NASA’s plans to spend about $700 million total on the Mars mission with tentative launch date in 2018 or 2020. The Mars exploration plans changed after NASA was forced to exit the joint ESA and Russia program called ExoMars.
That mission was intended to send a probe to Mars and return samples. Those missions are continuing without NASA’s help and are slated for 2016 and 2018. $20 million of the funds for the new Mars program will come from money left over after NASA pays to get out of the joint ExoMars program. The other $10 million is being taken from Planetary Science Division’s outer planet program to study planets beyond Mars.