The Houston Chronicle reported on December 6, 2013 that NASA is engaged in a “restructuring” of its planetary science account. Along with a cancellation of any future “flagship” missions such as Cassini or Mars Curiosity, the space agency is not going to hand out any research grants for 2014. That means that scientists who have been analyzing data from existing space probes and designing new missions had better find other work.
This is one reason why Bill Nye the former science guy published an open letter to President Obama urging him to restore $300 million in funding that was cut from planetary science for the current fiscal year.
The major take away from this development is that the Obama administration, for all its rhetoric about being a science oriented presidency, has been remarkably stingy when it comes to funding NASA. The planetary science community is stuck with having to fight for its share of a declining budget that has placed pressure on all accounts. Congress seems incapable of bucking the trend by increasing NASA’s top line. Sequestration obviously does not help either.
In the meantime, dreams of sending probes to explore Europa and Titan are just going to be deferred indefinitely.