Feeds

NASA delays Mars tank launch until 2011

Budget grows another $400m

Top three mobile application threats

NASA will delay the launch of its nuclear-powered robotic tank to the surface of Mars by two years because of unresolved technical issues.

The space agency is now aiming for a 2011 lift-off date for the Mars Science Laboratory. The delay will add $400m to the already over-budgeted Mars rover and likely force NASA to delay other missions, agency officials say.

"We've determined that trying for '09 would require us to assume too much risk – more than I think is appropriate for a flagship mission like Mars Science Laboratory," Michael Griffin, NASA administrator told reporters at a press conference Thursday.

Griffin cited a backlog of problems with the SUV-sized rover's actuator motors for scrapping the mission's original October 2009 launch date. Because the relative positions of Mars and Earth are ideal for only a few weeks every two years, the next best opportunity to launch will be in the fall of 2011.

MSL is already nearly 30 per cent over its approved 2006 budget of $1.63bn. The expected cost of the delay will swell the rover's total lifetime cost to more than $2.2bn.

Artist's concept of MSL on Mars, courtesy NASA

"We think we can get by without canceling anything, although some missions will almost certainly be delayed," Griffin said. "The cuts will first come out of the Mars research program, but other planetary missions may also be affected."

The MSL mission will drop the rover on the surface of Mars to spend two years seeking signs of habitability in the planet's early history. It will also analyze Martian soil and rocks in more detail than previous surface missions, the Phoenix Lander and twin crafts Spirit and Opportunity.

"Despite exhaustive work in multiple shifts by a dedicated team, the progress in recent weeks has not come fast enough on solving technical challenges and pulling hardware together," said Charles Elachi, director of NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab in California in a statement.

The agency said tests conducted during the middle phases of development prompted the team to re-engineer key parts of the craft.

When Earth and Mars are at their shortest distance from one another (roughly 35 million miles, or 56 million kilometers), the MSL's journey from Earth will take about six months. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
KILLER SPONGES menacing California coastline
Surfers are safe, crustaceans less so
LOHAN and the amazing technicolor spaceplane
Our Vulture 2 livery is wrapped, and it's les noix du mutt
KILLER ROBOTS, DNA TAMPERING and PEEPING CYBORGS: the future looks bright!
Americans optimistic about technology despite being afraid of EVERYTHING
R.I.P. LADEE: Probe smashes into lunar surface at 3,600mph
Swan dive signs off successful science mission
Discovery time for 200m WONDER MATERIALS shaved from 4 MILLENNIA... to 4 years
Alloy, Alloy: Boffins in speed-classification breakthrough
Liftoff! SpaceX Falcon 9 lifts Dragon on third resupply mission to ISS
SpaceX snaps smartly into one-second launch window
Elon Musk's LEAKY THRUSTER gas stalls Space Station supply run
Helium seeps from Falcon 9 first stage, delays new legs for NASA robonaut
prev story

Whitepapers

SANS - Survey on application security programs
In this whitepaper learn about the state of application security programs and practices of 488 surveyed respondents, and discover how mature and effective these programs are.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.