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JPL to lay off more than 500 employees

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The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which plays an integral role in NASA's Mars exploration program, announced it will lay off more than 500 employees Tuesday. 

The Los Angeles County facility attributed the cuts to a shrinking budget from the federal government. In an internal memo, the laboratory expected to receive a $300 million budget for its Mars Sample Return project for the 2024 fiscal year. Director Laurie Leshin said this accounts for a 63% decrease from 2023. 

"So in the absence of an appropriation, and as much as we wish we didn't need to take this action, we must now move forward to protect against even deeper cuts later were we to wait," Leshin wrote in an internal memo.

Leshin added that approximately 530 employees, about 8% will learn on Wednesday that JPL will no longer employ them. The lab cut on-site contractors earlier this month and plans to let go of 40 more in this round of layoffs. 

"This is by far the hardest action I have had to take since becoming Director of JPL, and I know I join all of you in wishing it was not necessary. We will always value our colleagues who are leaving the Laboratory and they will be missed as we go forward," she wrote. 

Congresswoman Judy Chu, who represents JPL's area, said she was "extremely disappointed" about the impending cuts. 

"These cuts will devastate workers and Southern California in the short-term, and they hurt the long-term viability of not just our Mars Exploration Program but also many years of scientific discovery to come," she wrote in a statement.

She vowed to work on a deal between the administration and Congress to, hopefully, rehire workers. 

"I'm hopeful in the coming weeks we can work to broker a deal with the Administration and Congress to restore funding to the levels necessary to rehire workers and promote the kinds of scientific discovery JPL has been on the frontlines of for decades," Chu wrote. 

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