NASA financial crisis: Jet Propulsion Laboratory lays off 8% of staff

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) announced on February 6 the decrease of 530 employees and 40 contractors, which is about 8% of its staff. The reason was the uncertainty with the budget for 2024.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The new wave of layoffs came just a month after JPL cut 100 contractors. Many of them worked on the MSR (Mars Sample Return) mission project. The purpose of this mission is to deliver samples of Martian soil to Earth. 

The reason for the layoffs is NASA’s decision at the end of last year to cut costs for MSR in the face of financial uncertainty. The fact is that at the moment there are two fundamentally different bills on the budget of the program for 2024. The first one was prepared by the House of Representatives of the Congress, and it provides for the allocation of 949.3 million dollars for the project. The second one was prepared by the Senate. It provides for the allocation of only USD 300 million.

In an environment where lawmakers cannot make a final decision due to ongoing disputes, NASA assumes that the Senate bill will eventually be selected. Therefore, the organization has limited the current costs of MSR to a ceiling of USD 300 million. The situation is further aggravated by the report of the independent commission published last year, the authors of which came to the disappointing conclusion that the stated budget of the mission is absolutely insufficient for its implementation. All this has put the project in limbo.

NASA’s decision to cut spending on MSR in the absence of a final spending bill for 2024 has provoked sharp opposition from many members of Congress representing California, they said that it would cause huge damage to Mars exploration. In turn, NASA administrator Bill Nelson said that it was very difficult, but the only possible solution given the circumstances.

According to

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