NASA turns to cheaper Mars program after budget cuts

NASA turns to cheaper Mars program after budget cutsWashington, April 14 : NASA has announced that it is looking for alternative, cheaper ways to continue Mars exploration after it was rocked by recent budget cuts.

The agency has created the Mars Program Planning Group (MPPG) to develop and manage future robotic missions, and is encouraging scientists and engineers from around the world to contribute ideas.

The MPPG will be led by veteran aerospace engineer Orlando Figueroa and scientists can now submit ideas and abstracts online, the ABC News reported.

This comes on the heels of the announcement that NASA had pulled out of its partnership with European agencies, in which they were planning missions to Mars in 2016 and 2018.

According to a foreign news agency, the missions would have been the first step toward returning parts of the Red Planet - including soil and rocks - back to Earth.

"We are replanning in part because of the budget environment that we're in," said John Grunsfeld, an astrophysicist, five-time space shuttle astronaut and associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate.

"We're moving quickly to develop options for future Mars exploration missions and pathways.

"As part of this process, community involvement, including international, is essential for charting the new agency-wide strategy for our future Mars exploration efforts," Grusnfeld said. (ANI)