Planets stay in the dark – for want of the money to see them.

Scientific American editorializes on the planetary implications of NASA’s budget being cut:

The president’s proposed budget for 2013 includes drastic cutbacks to planetary science of more than 20 percent that could derail many future missions. Such erratic handling of NASA threatens the nation’s steady progress of solar system exploration, which is hypersensitive to the vicissitudes of budget politics.

Sending robotic missions out into the solar system requires years of preparation. Interplanetary probes depend on cutting-edge technologies that are developed and tested over time. And flight plans often demand a well-timed launch during a brief planetary alignment. Nurturing these complex missions calls for patience and a steady hand. That is why a group of planetary scientists draws up a blueprint for exploration every 10 years or so under the auspices of the National Research Council. This advisory panel issued its most recent report last year, which prioritizes the missions and objectives that will yield the most science per dollar. Shaking up the planetary science division now, for a relatively meager savings of $300 million, would force NASA away from these sensible, well-defined goals.

The most severe cuts were to Mars exploration, long a U.S. specialty.