WASHINGTON — NASA’s launch of the Mars Science Laboratory — hampered by technical difficulties and value overruns — has been delayed till the autumn of 2011, NASA officials stated at a information convention Thursday in Washington.

A photograph illustration of a laser-equipped automobile that’s set to be half 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 is, in keeping with NASA’s Web website, half 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 keeping with NASA, is because of a quantity of “testing and hardware challenges that must (still) be addressed to ensure mission success.”

“The progress in recent weeks has not come fast enough on solving technical challenges and pulling hardware together,” stated Charles Elachi, director of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

Changing to a 2011 launch “will allow for careful resolution of any remaining technical problems, proper and thorough testing, and avoid a mad dash to launch,” argued NASA Associate Administrator Ed Weiler.

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

NASA’s whole finances for the present fiscal 12 months, in keeping with Browne, is roughly $15 billion.

According 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 shall be completed partially by using a brand new floor propulsion system.

“Failure is not an option on this mission,” Weiler stated. “The science is too important and the investment of American taxpayer dollars compels us to be absolutely certain that we have done everything possible to ensure 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 consequence within the cancellation of different NASA packages over the subsequent two years. He did, nonetheless, 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 tormented by an absence of accountability and inefficiency in phrases of its administration of each time and taxpayer {dollars}.

“The Mars Science Laboratory is barely 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 Times. “A cancer is overtaking our space agency: the routine acquiescence to immense cost increases in projects.”

Stern charged that the company’s price overruns are being fueled by “managers who disguise the scale 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 “constantly working to improve (the agency’s) cost-estimating capabilities. … We continually review our projects to understand the true risk in terms of performance, cost and schedule.”

“The truth 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 nearly as troublesome as really doing the science,” Browne stated.

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

NASA officials 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, more than likely within the type of permafrost. They thought such a location can be a promising place to search for natural chemical substances that might sign a liveable setting.

Scientists have been capable of 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 stated Thursday.



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