Mars Science Lab launch delayed two years

Mars Science Lab launch delayed two years

WASHINGTON (CNN) — NASA’s launch of the Mars Science Laboratory — hampered by technical difficulties and price overruns — has been delayed till the autumn of 2011, NASA officers mentioned at a information convention Thursday in Washington.

A photograph illustration of a laser-equipped automobile that’s set to be a part of the Mars Science Laboratory.

The mission had been scheduled for launch within the fall of 2009.

The Mars Science Lab is a big, nuclear-powered rover designed to traverse lengthy distances with a collection of onboard scientific devices aboard.

It’s, in keeping with NASA’s Site, a part of a “long-term effort of robotic exploration” established to “examine the early environmental historical past of Mars” and assess whether or not Mars has ever been — or nonetheless is — in a position to maintain life.

The delay of the launch, in keeping with NASA, is because of various “testing and {hardware} challenges that should (nonetheless) be addressed to make sure mission success.”

“The progress in current weeks has not come quick sufficient on fixing technical challenges and pulling {hardware} collectively,” mentioned Charles Elachi, director of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

Altering to a 2011 launch “will enable for cautious decision of any remaining technical issues, correct and thorough testing, and keep away from a mad sprint to launch,” argued NASA Affiliate Administrator Ed Weiler.

The general value of the Mars Science Lab is now projected to be roughly $2.1 billion, in keeping with NASA spokesman Dwayne Browne. The undertaking initially carried a price ticket of $1.6 billion.

NASA’s whole price range for the present fiscal yr, in keeping with Browne, is roughly $15 billion.

In response to NASA, the Mars rover will use new applied sciences and be engineered to discover better distances over rougher terrain than earlier missions to the planet. This will likely be achieved partly by using a brand new floor propulsion system.

“Failure will not be an possibility on this mission,” Weiler mentioned. “The science is just too essential and the funding of American taxpayer {dollars} compels us to be completely sure that we have now achieved all the pieces doable to make sure the success of this flagship planetary mission.”

Weiler asserted that, primarily based on the company’s preliminary evaluations, extra prices tied to the delay of the Science Lab launch wouldn’t consequence within the cancellation of different NASA applications over the subsequent two years. He did, nonetheless, concede that it could lead to different unspecified program delays.

Critics have charged that the delay and price overruns related to the Mars Science Lab are indicative of an company that’s suffering from a scarcity of accountability and inefficiency when it comes to its administration of each time and taxpayer {dollars}.

“The Mars Science Laboratory is just the most recent symptom of a NASA tradition that has misplaced management of spending,” wrote Alan Stern, a former NASA affiliate administrator, in a November 24 op-ed within the New York Instances. “A most cancers is overtaking our house company: the routine acquiescence to immense value will increase in initiatives.”

Stern charged that the company’s value overruns are being fueled by “managers who disguise the scale of value will increase that missions incur” and “members of Congress who settle for steep will increase to guard native jobs.”

Browne replied in a written assertion saying that NASA directors are “consistently working to enhance (the company’s) cost-estimating capabilities. … We regularly overview our initiatives to grasp the true danger when it comes to efficiency, value and schedule.”

“The actual fact of life at NASA, the place we’re charged with creating first-of-a-kind missions of scientific discovery, is that estimating the prices of … science may be virtually as tough as really doing the science,” Browne mentioned.

NASA’s most up-to-date Mars undertaking — the mission of the Phoenix Mars Lander — got here to an finish final month after the solar-powered automobile’s batteries ran down as the results of a mud storm and the onset of Martian winter. It had operated two months past its preliminary three-month mission.

NASA officers had landed the automobile on an arctic plain after satellite tv for pc observations indicated there have been huge portions of frozen water in that space, almost certainly within the type of permafrost. They thought such a location could be a promising place to search for natural chemical compounds that might sign a liveable atmosphere.

Scientists have been in a position to confirm the presence of water-ice within the Martian subsurface, discover small concentrations of salts that could possibly be vitamins for all times, and observe snow descending from the clouds, NASA mentioned Thursday.

All About Mars Exploration • NASA

 

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