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Mars Science Lab launch delayed two years

WASHINGTON (CNN) — NASA’s launch of the Mars Science Laboratory — hampered by technical difficulties and value overruns — has been delayed till the autumn of 2011, NASA officers stated 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 response to NASA’s Website online, a part of a “long-term effort of robotic exploration” established to “research the early environmental historical past of Mars” and assess whether or not Mars has ever been — or nonetheless is — capable of maintain life.

The delay of the launch, in response to NASA, is because of quite a lot of “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,” stated Charles Elachi, director of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

Altering to a 2011 launch “will permit 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 response to NASA spokesman Dwayne Browne. The venture initially carried a price ticket of $1.6 billion.

NASA’s complete price range for the present fiscal yr, in response to Browne, is roughly $15 billion.

Based on 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 shall be executed partly by using a brand new floor propulsion system.

“Failure isn’t an possibility on this mission,” Weiler stated. “The science is just too necessary and the funding of American taxpayer {dollars} compels us to be completely sure that we now have executed all the things attainable 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 packages over the subsequent two years. He did, nevertheless, concede that it might lead to different unspecified program delays.

Critics have charged that the delay and value 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 barely 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 Occasions. “A most cancers is overtaking our area company: the routine acquiescence to immense value will increase in tasks.”

Stern charged that the company’s value overruns are being fueled by “managers who disguise the dimensions 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 “always working to enhance (the company’s) cost-estimating capabilities. … We regularly evaluate our tasks to grasp the true threat by way of 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 might be nearly as troublesome as truly doing the science,” Browne stated.

NASA’s most up-to-date Mars venture — 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 substances that will sign a liveable surroundings.

Scientists had been capable of 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 stated Thursday.

All About Mars Exploration • NASA

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