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NASA: Opportunity, LRO missions funded through 2016

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter in orbit above the Moon NASA image posted on SpaceFlight Insider

NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, as well as the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity, will live to explore another day – thanks to a boost in funding the space agency received. Image Credit: NASA

According to representatives within NASA, two planetary programs that were being eyed for the funding chopping block will be operated through 2016. Neither NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity nor the agency’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter was funded for 2016 under NASA’s original budget request – something the $1.27 billion “boost” NASA’s budget received has rectified.

A March 27, 2015, article posted on noted how the budget for two of NASA’s ongoing missions – Opportunity and LRO – would have had their budgets “zeroed out” for the coming year. Essentially, these long-lived missions would come to a close.

Opportunity has been exploring Mars for nearly 12 years. Photo Credit: Carleton Bailie / SpaceFlight Insider

Opportunity has been exploring Mars for nearly 12 years. Photo Credit: Carleton Bailie / SpaceFlight Insider

However, with the boost in funding that NASA’s budget has received, those two missions get to continue to explore the Red Planet and our nearest celestial neighbor a little longer.

“NASA will continue operating the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, and the Opportunity Rover on Mars in FY 2016, as provided for in the FY 2016 appropriation,” said David Schurr, deputy director of NASA’s Planetary Sciences Division, located at the space agency’s Headquarters in Washington D.C.

Opportunity was launched on July 8, 2003, at 11:18 p.m EDT, atop a Delta II rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 17 after her sister rover, Spirit, was launched on her way to the Red Planet. Each of the six-wheeled robotic geologists was given a planned mission life of some 90 days. Opportunity has far outstripped this; if she survives until the end of this month (Jan. 2016), she will have been on the Martian surface for 12 years. Both Spirit and Opportunity were/are managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, located in California.

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter was launched on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V 401 rocket from Cape Canaveral’s Space Launch Complex 41 on June 18, 2009, and is managed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. It was sent to provide the most comprehensive map of the Moon’s terrain produced to date, as well as collect data on lunar resources for, at the time, use by crews sent to establish a base in the dusty lunar regolith.


Jason Rhian spent several years honing his skills with internships at NASA, the National Space Society and other organizations. He has provided content for outlets such as: Aviation Week & Space Technology,, The Mars Society and Universe Today.

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