NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), based in Pasadena, California, is facing a major setback as it plans to lay off 530 workers and 40 contractors due to a lack of federal funding for the fiscal year. The layoffs represent approximately 8% of JPL’s workforce.
One of the crucial reasons for this workforce reduction at JPL is the delay in receiving funding from Congress for the Mars Sample Return mission. The lab had been eagerly awaiting this funding to move forward with the ambitious project.
It is worth noting that JPL has been operating under tight budget constraints even before these layoffs, which has resulted in a hiring freeze and reduced contracts. Some on-site contractors have already been let go in an attempt to reduce spending.
The concerning aspect of the situation is that NASA had recently informed JPL to prepare for a budget of only $300 million for the Mars Sample Return mission. This represents a drastic 63% drop from the previous year’s allocation, making it increasingly challenging for JPL to execute the project successfully.
To cope with the layoffs, JPL employees will be working from their homes on Wednesday, and those affected will be notified about their termination. Despite this unfortunate development, impacted workers will receive their base pay and benefits for the next 60 days.
JPL has also mentioned that eligible workers will be offered severance packages and transitional benefits. However, the layoffs have raised concerns and prompted a strong response from U.S. Rep. Judy Chu of California, who expressed solidarity with the impacted JPL workers and pledged to fight for funding restoration.
These job cuts have undoubtedly put the future of the Mars Sample Return mission in jeopardy, as JPL grapples with the challenges of limited funding. The scientific community and enthusiasts around the world eagerly await any positive developments in securing the necessary funding to ensure the continuation of this groundbreaking mission.