Feeds

New NASA nuclear Mars rover hits budget, time problems

Laser rock-crushing droid tank attack for '11?

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

NASA's plans for a huge, nuclear powered laser-toting robot tank to succeed the present rovers on the surface of Mars have hit budget problems, according to reports.

The Mars Science Laboratory mission is currently planned by the space agency to lift off late next year and reach the Red Planet in the autumn of 2010, there to spend a full Martian year (almost two terrestrial ones) seeking out signs of life.

The new MSL mega-rover next to one of the current ones

New hotness; old and busted.

But Aviation Week now reports that senior NASA officials believe that the project is likely to go over budget, and that the 2009 launch slot is unrealistic. It appears that the new planet-prowler has already cost $1.5bn, and may soon hit a cost overrun threshold that could trigger cancellation by Congress.

There are also worries that getting the troubled Mars machine away on time would be such a rush that it might not work properly, even if enough funds could be found in the short-term budget. Doug McCuistion, Mars Exploration manager for NASA, even told Av Week that a "nuclear crater on Mars" might result from issues with the MSL's planned radioisotope generator - a nuclear battery. (One of the main limits on the current rovers is the limited amount of power they get from their solar cells.)

The troubles at NASA might see the new crawler delayed until 2011, or even cancelled altogether.

If it flies, however, the MSL will certainly be an impressive piece of kit. It will deploy by lowering on a cable beneath its retro-rocketing, parachuting lander spacecraft. Its radioisotope power source will enable the use of powerful grinders and crushers, able to powder tough Martian rocks for analysis, and a laser able to "vapourise material" up to 10 meters off - for spectrographic analysis, of course.

If any heretofore undetected Martians give the machine any trouble, it would certainly seem capable of looking after itself - assuming it ever gets there. NASA chief Mike Griffin and other bigwigs are set to receive a briefing next week.

The Av Week report is here, and more from NASA on the MSL is here. ®

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
Our LOHAN spaceplane ballocket Kickstarter climbs through £8000
Through 25 per cent but more is needed: Get your UNIQUE rewards!
Cutting cancer rates: Data, models and a happy ending?
How surgery might be making cancer prognoses worse
Boffins ID freakish spine-smothered prehistoric critter: The CLAW gave it away
Bizarre-looking creature actually related to velvet worms
CRR-CRRRK, beep, beep: Mars space truck backs out of slippery sand trap
Curiosity finds new drilling target after course correction
SpaceX prototype rocket EXPLODES over Texas. 'Tricky' biz, says Elon Musk
No injuries or near injuries. Flight stayed in designated area
Brit balloon bod Bodnar overflies North Pole
B-64 amateur ultralight payload approaching second circumnavigation
Galileo, Galileo! Galileo, Galileo! Galileo fit to go. Magnifico
I'm just a poor boy, nobody loves me. But at least I can find my way with ESA GPS by 2017
Astronomers scramble for obs on new comet
Amateur gets fifth confirmed discovery
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup
IT departments are embracing cloud backup, but there’s a lot you need to know before choosing a service provider. Learn all the critical things you need to know.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?