Not even immune to. The agency says it will lay off about 530 employees from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California amid budget uncertainty. This represents eight percent of the facility's workforce. JPL is also laying off about 40 contractors, just weeks after imposing a hiring freeze . The workers are being informed of their fate today.
“After exhausting all other measures to adapt to a reduced NASA budget, and in the absence of FY24 appropriations from Congress, we had to make the difficult decision to reduce the JPL workforce through layoffs.” spotted before . “Impacts will occur in both technical and support areas of the laboratory. These are painful but necessary adjustments that will enable us to adhere to our budget allocations while continuing our important work for NASA and our nation.”
Uncertainty about the final budget that Congress will allocate to NASA for 2024 played a major factor in the cuts. The agency is expected to receive about $300 million for MSR, an ambitious mission in which NASA plans to restore soil. In its 2024 budget proposal, NASA requested just under $950 million for the project.
“Although we still do not have FY24 appropriations or final word from Congress on Mars Sample Return (MSR) budget allocation, we are now in a position where we must take further significant actions to reduce our spending,” JPL Director Lurie Leshin wrote in a note. “In the absence of appropriations, as much as we wish we did not need to take this action, we must move forward now to protect against deeper cuts later if we wait.”
NASA has not yet provided a full cost estimate for MSR, although an independent report has pegged the price at between $8 billion and $11 billion. In its proposed 2024 budget, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee ordered NASA to submit an annual funding plan for MSR. If the agency did not do so, the subcommittee warned, the mission could be canceled.
This is despite MSR enjoying success so far. The Perseverance rover has extracted some soil samples that will require careful analysis if NASA can return them to Earth. The samples could help scientists learn more about Mars, such as whether the planet ever hosted life.
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