Friday, September 14, 2007

Mars Science Lab takes a cut

NASA is descoping the $1.7 billion Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) rover, cutting back some instruments, capping others and changing some design elements to cover a $75 million overrun.

The agency's Science Mission Directorate (SMD) drew on input from the MSL project office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and the scientific community to order a series of "low-impact mission scope reductions" that, when combined with extra funds from NASA's Mars program reserves, should cover the shortfall. The problem was discovered during critical design review in June.

Seems quite a pity that they're cutting this instead of getting a little more money for the MSL. Some of those instruments - like the rock grinder - would be invaluable especially over the long term. It's also too bad that they probably cannot afford - or want - to produce three or four of the MSLs to drop in different parts of Mars. Even if the MSL lasts fifty years, it will cover a mere paltry part of the Martian landscape.

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