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NASA kills Mars deal with Europe

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WASHINGTON — The United States will scale back Mars exploration under a proposed budget by President Barack Obama released Monday that has some scientists fuming over the risk of a NASA brain-drain.

The plan kills a deal between the US and European space agencies to cooperate on Mars robotic rover missions in 2016 and 2018, with a view to preparing to return samples from the red planet in the next decade.

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NASA administrator Charles Bolden admitted that “tough choices” had to be made in axing the European deal, but vowed to restructure the Mars program so that future robotics mission could potentially be revisited in 2018-2020.

“This means we will not be moving forward with the planned 2016 and 2018 ExoMars mission that we have been exploring with the European Space Agency,” Bolden said.

The fiscal 2013 budget, which is unlikely to face a vote in Congress while Obama seeks re-election, called for a $226 million reduction, or a near 39 percent cut in the US space agency’s Mars exploration program from $587 million to $361 million.

Meanwhile, it funds other big projects such as the James Webb Space Telescope and a new heavy-lift rocket to propel an eventual deep space mission to an asteroid, and provides seed money for private companies seeking to replace the space shuttle which was retired last year.

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The overall proposal is to give NASA $17.7 billion, a decrease of 0.3 percent or $59 million less than 2012.

“It is a real scientific tragedy and I personally believe it is a national embarrassment,” G. Scott Hubbard, a Stanford University professor who served as the first NASA Mars program director, told AFP.

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“Here we had one of the most successful NASA programs of the last decade and it is being effectively turned off.”

Obama’s budget pointed to the successful launch last year of the Mars Science Laboratory, also known as Curiosity, the biggest and most advanced rover ever built which should land in August, as it called for reduced support for new robotic projects.

“It is sad for science,” said Pascale Ehrenfreund, research professor of Space Policy at George Washington University.

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“But you have to focus on the future. I am very convinced that when the Mars Science Laboratory lands in August and takes successful measurements on Mars that the situation might change rather fast. The budget may be reconsidered.”

According to Bill Nye, chief executive of the Planetary Society, an association of scientists skilled in the search for alien life, program cuts could have devastating consequences.

“We are concerned that once planetary exploration programs are stopped, they just can’t be restarted,” Nye told AFP.

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NASA currently employs the world’s top experts in landing robotic vehicles on Mars, he said, noting that the recent failure by Russia to get its Mars probe off to a successful launch provides evidence of the danger.

“If all the (NASA) people expert in Entry, Descent, and Landing (EDL) on Mars have no missions and then retire, the program just cannot recover,” Nye said.

Russia has been floated as potential partner with Europe in the ExoMars project should the United States withdraw.

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According to the ExoMars deal made in 2009, NASA would have contributed $1.4 billion to the project and ESA would have chipped in $1.2 billion to send an orbiter to Mars in 2016 and two rovers to land on the red planet in 2018.

Tens of millions of US dollars have already been spent on the plans, according to Hubbard.

John Logsdon, an external White House adviser and longtime space analyst, said the United States withdrew from ExoMars because it “cannot afford now to commit itself to another multi-billion dollar project.”

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Other politically controversial projects did receive funding, including the elaborate James Webb Space Telescope, 100 times more sensitive than its predecessor, the Hubble.

The Obama budget urges that the project be capped at $8 billion. NASA said in December that the project was on track to launch in 2018 at a total project cost of $8.8 billion, after a series of delays and cost overruns.

NASA would also get $3 billion for developing new spacecraft and rockets to take the next generation of astronauts to space, after the space shuttle program ended last year, leaving Russia as the sole taxi to the International Space Station.

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Big projects include $1.86 billion for the continued development of a Space Launch System (SLS) heavy lift rocket and $1.2 billion for the Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle to “with a key initial goal of visiting an asteroid next decade,” it said.

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… then let us make a small request. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism — and we’re investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We’ve launched a weekly podcast, “We’ve Got Issues,” focused on issues, not tweets. Unlike other news sites, we’ve decided to make our original content free. But we need your support to do what we do.

Raw Story is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. We’re not part of a conglomerate, or a project of venture capital bros. From unflinching coverage of racism, to revealing efforts to erode our rights, Raw Story will continue to expose hypocrisy and harm. Unhinged from corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.

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‘Go look at President Trump’s Twitter’: Portland right-wing rally organizer claims ‘mission success’

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The organizer of a far-right rally in Portland, Oregon claimed the event was a "success" after President Donald Trump attacked Portlandiers protesting the group.

"A confluence of protesters on opposite ends of the ideological spectrum merged on Portland’s waterfront Saturday in a tense but relatively uneventful face-off that brought national attention, including a tweet in the hours before the protest by President Trump decrying the city’s signature anti-fascist movement," the Oregonian reported Saturday.

When a similar right-wing rally in Charlottesville, Virginia killed Heather Heyer, Trump argued there were "fine people" on both sides of the "Unite the Right" rally.

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Why was Jeffrey Epstein buying size 5 women’s panties — while in jail?

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The Miami Herald has another bombshell report on Jeffrey Epstein, who died in a Manhattan jail while waiting to stand trial on federal sex crimes charges.

"A decade ago, during a brief stint in Palm Beach County Jail, convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein made an odd purchase at the facility’s store: two pairs of small women’s panties, size 5," the Herald reported Saturday night.

The newspaper noted, "the panties raise questions about why a childless male inmate, accused of sexually abusing girls as young as 14, would be allowed to buy female undergarments so small that they wouldn’t fit an average-sized adult woman."

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White nationalist Republican ridiculed after only 2 people show up for his town hall meeting

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Embattled Rep. Steve King (R-IA) suffered further humiliation on Saturday when only two people showed up for his town hall meeting with Iowa constituents.

King, who was stripped of all committee assignments for his white nationalism, was been an embarrassment for Republicans with his constant racism and misogyny.

A photo of the town hall meeting was posted on Twitter by Reuters photo editor Corinne Perkins.

https://twitter.com/corinne_perkins/status/1162806565109473280

Rep. King was quickly mocked in the comments.

Here's some of what people were saying:

https://twitter.com/sedespres/status/1162811223186006018

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