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 photo illustration of a laser-equipped vehicle that is set to be part of the Mars Science Laboratory.

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 set of onboard scientific devices aboard.

It’s, in line with NASA’s Website online, 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 line with NASA, is because of numerous “testing and {hardware} challenges that should (nonetheless) be addressed to make sure mission success.”

“The progress in latest 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 price of the Mars Science Lab is now projected to be roughly $2.1 billion, in line with NASA spokesman Dwayne Browne. The challenge initially carried a price ticket of $1.6 billion.

NASA’s total price range for the present fiscal 12 months, in line with Browne, is roughly $15 billion.

In keeping with NASA, the Mars rover will use new applied sciences and be engineered to discover higher distances over rougher terrain than earlier missions to the planet. This will probably be performed partially by using a brand new floor propulsion system.

“Failure just isn’t an choice on this mission,” Weiler mentioned. “The science is simply too necessary and the funding of American taxpayer {dollars} compels us to be completely sure that we have now performed every part potential to make sure the success of this flagship planetary mission.”

Weiler asserted that, based mostly on the company’s preliminary evaluations, extra prices tied to the delay of the Science Lab launch wouldn’t outcome within the cancellation of different NASA packages over the subsequent two years. He did, nonetheless, concede that it might end in 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 stricken by a scarcity of accountability and inefficiency by way of its administration of each time and taxpayer {dollars}.

“The Mars Science Laboratory is just the newest 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 Occasions. “A most cancers is overtaking our house company: the routine acquiescence to immense price will increase in tasks.”

Stern charged that the company’s price overruns are being fueled by “managers who disguise the dimensions of price 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 “continuously working to enhance (the company’s) cost-estimating capabilities. … We regularly assessment our tasks to grasp the true danger by way of efficiency, price and schedule.”

“The very 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 could be virtually as tough as truly doing the science,” Browne mentioned.

NASA’s most up-to-date Mars challenge — 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, most definitely 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 may very well be vitamins for all times, and observe snow descending from the clouds, NASA mentioned Thursday.

All About Mars Exploration • NASA

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