Mars Science Lab launch delayed two years

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- NASA's motorboat of the Mars Science Laboratory -- hampered by method difficulties and outgo overruns -- has been delayed until the autumn of 2011, NASA officials said astatine a quality league Thursday successful Washington.

A photograph  illustration of a laser-equipped conveyance  that is acceptable   to beryllium  portion  of the Mars Science Laboratory.

A photograph illustration of a laser-equipped conveyance that is acceptable to beryllium portion of the Mars Science Laboratory.

The ngo had been scheduled for motorboat successful the autumn of 2009.

The Mars Science Lab is simply a large, nuclear-powered rover designed to traverse agelong distances with a suite of onboard technological instruments aboard.

It is, according to NASA's Web site, portion of a "long-term effort of robotic exploration" established to "study the aboriginal biology past of Mars" and measure whether Mars has ever been -- oregon inactive is -- capable to prolong life.

The hold of the launch, according to NASA, is owed to a fig of "testing and hardware challenges that indispensable (still) beryllium addressed to guarantee ngo success."

"The advancement successful caller weeks has not travel accelerated capable connected solving method challenges and pulling hardware together," said Charles Elachi, manager of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory successful Pasadena, California.

Changing to a 2011 motorboat "will let for cautious solution of immoderate remaining method problems, due and thorough testing, and debar a huffy dash to launch," argued NASA Associate Administrator Ed Weiler.

The wide outgo of the Mars Science Lab is present projected to beryllium astir $2.1 billion, according to NASA spokesperson Dwayne Browne. The task primitively carried a terms tag of $1.6 billion.

NASA's full fund for the existent fiscal year, according to Browne, is astir $15 billion.

According to NASA, the Mars rover volition usage caller technologies and beryllium engineered to research greater distances implicit rougher terrain than erstwhile missions to the planet. This volition beryllium done successful portion by employing a caller aboveground propulsion system.

"Failure is not an enactment connected this mission," Weiler said. "The subject is excessively important and the concern of American payer dollars compels america to beryllium perfectly definite that we person done everything imaginable to guarantee the occurrence of this flagship planetary mission."

Weiler asserted that, based connected the agency's preliminary evaluations, further costs tied to the hold of the Science Lab motorboat would not effect successful the cancellation of different NASA programs implicit the adjacent 2 years. He did, however, concede that it would effect successful different unspecified programme delays.

Critics person charged that the hold and outgo overruns associated with the Mars Science Lab are indicative of an bureau that is plagued by a deficiency of accountability and inefficiency successful presumption of its absorption of some clip and payer dollars.

"The Mars Science Laboratory is lone the latest grounds of a NASA civilization that has mislaid power of spending," wrote Alan Stern, a erstwhile NASA subordinate administrator, successful a November 24 op-ed successful the New York Times. "A crab is overtaking our abstraction agency: the regular acquiescence to immense outgo increases successful projects."

Stern charged that the agency's outgo overruns are being fueled by "managers who disguise the size of outgo increases that missions incur" and "members of Congress who judge steep increases to support section jobs."

Browne replied successful a written connection saying that NASA administrators are "constantly moving to amended (the agency's) cost-estimating capabilities. ... We continually reappraisal our projects to recognize the existent hazard successful presumption of performance, outgo and schedule."

"The information of beingness astatine NASA, wherever we are charged with creating first-of-a-kind missions of technological discovery, is that estimating the costs of ... subject tin beryllium astir arsenic hard arsenic really doing the science," Browne said.

NASA's astir caller Mars task -- the ngo of the Phoenix Mars Lander -- came to an extremity past period aft the solar-powered vehicle's batteries ran down arsenic the effect of a particulate tempest and the onset of Martian winter. It had operated 2 months beyond its archetypal three-month mission.

NASA officials had landed the conveyance connected an arctic plain aft outer observations indicated determination were immense quantities of frozen h2o successful that area, astir apt successful the signifier of permafrost. They thought specified a determination would beryllium a promising spot to look for integrated chemicals that would awesome a habitable environment.

Scientists were capable to verify the beingness of water-ice successful the Martian subsurface, find tiny concentrations of salts that could beryllium nutrients for life, and observe snowfall descending from the clouds, NASA said Thursday.

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