NASA recently showed flashes of its old bravado by announcing plans for a lunar waypoint near the far side of the moon. Cold, hard reality brought the agency back to Earth this week, however, as it just announced a scaling back of its Mars exploration program. Thanks to funding cuts, NASA is scuttling its “ambitious” (i.e. expensive) flagship missions to the Red Planet for the near term. That means withdrawing from the ExoMars missions led by Europe and putting on hold plans to collect samples — though the Mars Science Laboratory is still a go. NASA is slated to receive $ 1.2 billion for its planetary science program, down 20 percent from what it gets now, with more cuts likely on the way. In the meantime, the agency is still hopeful about sending humans — or perhaps a wascally wabbit — to Mars by the 2030s.
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