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Mass Layoffs Hit NASA

• https://www.msn.com, by Sharon Adarlo

The first quarter of 2024 has been the season for mass layoffs in many industries, from Snapchat to Business Insider — and now, unfortunately, we can add NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) to that list as well.

The vaunted research center will be losing about 530 people, accounting for 8 percent of its staff, plus around 40 contractors, according to an organization-wide memo sent out Tuesday, due to congressional gridlock over the national budget.

And it's actually worse than it sounds: this is JPL's second round of layoffs since the start of 2024, The Los Angeles Times reports, because the organization also let go of 100 contractors in January.

JPL director Laurie Leshin explained in the memo that the cullings were due to congressional leaders not finalizing the 2o24 budget for NASA, and space agency leaders deciding to reduce spending for the Mars Sample Return project to $300 million, a sharp drop from $822 million in the previous budget.

Space Jeopardy

Leaders at the space agency sound none too pleased.

"To spend more than that amount, with no final legislation in place, would be unwise and spending money NASA does not have," said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson in a statement obtained by the LA Times.

NASA is currently funding operations via a continuing resolution, meaning the space agency is funded at 2023 budget numbers.

With the budget still up in the air, it's not clear what other parts of the agency will be impacted, but Congress has already signaled that the allocations will be less than what President Joe Biden requested.

The Mars Sample Return project, a joint collaboration with the European Space Agency, is particularly likely to be on the chopping block.


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