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MSL schedule delay?
vjkane
post Sep 9 2008, 08:10 PM
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The most recent Aviation Week and Space Technology (9/8) has the following tidbit in a piece on NASA schedule delays:

"On the robotoic front, the testing schedule for a critical instrument for the Mars Science Laboratory -- dubbed SAM for Sample Analysis at Mars -- may delay launch of the advanced rover from its 2009 planetary window into 2011."


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MahFL
post Sep 10 2008, 04:45 PM
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Oh crap, please say it's not true.
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monitorlizard
post Sep 10 2008, 06:19 PM
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I read that same tidbit. It'll be interesting to see if anything is said about it at next week's MSL Landing Site Workshop. It's a little hard to believe NASA would spend something like 100 million dollars extra to delay launch two years for the sake of one instrument. Maybe a somewhat degraded version of SAM could be readied sooner.
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vjkane
post Sep 10 2008, 06:34 PM
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QUOTE (monitorlizard @ Sep 10 2008, 07:19 PM) *
It's a little hard to believe NASA would spend something like 100 million dollars extra to delay launch two years for the sake of one instrument. Maybe a somewhat degraded version of SAM could be readied sooner.

SAM is in many ways the heart of MSL. Without it, MSL cannot search for signs of past or present life. Unfortunately, this is probably a show stopper, although reduced capability is always possible. From the way the notice was stated, it sounds like it may be the mechanical handling of the samples that's the problem. Perhaps fall out from the sample handling problems of Phoenix.

Anyway, here's a summary of SAM's goals: "The Sample Analysis at Mars instrument suite will take up more than half the science payload on board the Mars Science Laboratory rover and feature chemical equipment found in many scientific laboratories on Earth. Provided by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Sample Analysis at Mars will search for compounds of the element carbon, including methane, that are associated with life and explore ways in which they are generated and destroyed in the martian ecosphere."

more at http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/mission/sc_instru_sam.html


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vjkane
post Sep 25 2008, 11:47 PM
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Science magazine just published an article on the implications of a possible two year delay to MSL that is being considered. Some highlights:

"Faced with a dramatically higher price tag, NASA managers will decide next month whether to postpone the launch of a sophisticated Mars rover for 2 years... In addition to worrying about the unbudgeted overtime, Weiler is concerned that engineers may be rushing their inspection of the rover's complicated systems... The latest technical problems affecting the MSL budget include the tardy delivery of hardware used in the sample acquisition and handling portion of the laboratory. NASA Planetary Science Division Director Jim Green said in June that the total overrun for MSL in 2008 and 2009 was $190 million. Most of that money--some $115 million--will come from other Mars-related projects... A new $300 million overrun, says a NASA official familiar with MSL, could force the agency to cancel the $485 million 2013 Scout mission announced just last week to probe the planet's atmosphere or the 2016 Mars mission."

"The 2016 Mars effort now under consideration likely would be a smaller rover that could include some sample-gathering technology designed to test systems for an eventual sample-return mission from Mars to Earth. The projected $1.4 billion cost of such a rover would fall between MSL and the current Spirit and Opportunity rovers now on the surface."

"...static budgets, spacecraft overruns, and the need to conduct other missions make that [a Mars sample return] increasingly unrealistic, say agency managers and academic researchers. Weiler notes that a sample-return mission would cost many billions of dollars and that NASA is planning first to launch a mission to either Jupiter or Saturn late in the next decade... "Plans for a sample return were smoke and mirrors," says Mustard. "It's a good idea--but where's the money?""


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Burmese
post Sep 26 2008, 05:14 PM
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Given the ongoing series of reported delays and setbacks/redesigning they have had with MSL, I would sincerely -hope- they bump it to 2011. Everyone might recall Steve Squyres talking about how the development schedule for the MER rovers was right up against the limit, and as well caused considerable emotional stress/damaged personal relationships, etc.. and that any new projects should never be developed under such time pressure. Well, one can look at the development schedule for MSL by comparison and you don't have to be a rocket scientist to see the red warning lights. What I fear the most is that the project managers will just keep sitting down in meetings and talking themselves into believing they can hit the target dates because they refuse to acknowledge the elephant in the room, that being the fear of 'missing' a launch slot to Mars. I certainly hate to see a missed launch window but doing so is far better than having a project the size of MSL fail due to being rushed out. It is also another good reason for JPL to develop some 'back pocket' project that could be energized and brought up to speed on short notice to fill a slot in the event of another project being delayed. Something simple, like a spare MER that is cheap and proven and they have lots of experience with and support already in place for.
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mcaplinger
post Sep 26 2008, 06:15 PM
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QUOTE (Burmese @ Sep 26 2008, 09:14 AM) *
Something simple, like a spare MER that is cheap and proven ...

You're arguing against yourself. MER was neither cheap nor simple, and a spare wouldn't be either. The whole concept of a "back pocket" project is, in a word, ludicrous.

The media reports simply don't have enough detail to allow anyone to assess how the project is proceeding. I'm working on it and I don't even know smile.gif


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Disclaimer: This post is based on public information only. Any opinions are my own.
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centsworth_II
post Sep 26 2008, 06:40 PM
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QUOTE (mcaplinger @ Sep 26 2008, 01:15 PM) *
You're arguing against yourself. MER was neither cheap nor simple, and a spare wouldn't be either.

A spare MER does not exist.
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djellison
post Sep 26 2008, 07:30 PM
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QUOTE (Burmese @ Sep 26 2008, 06:14 PM) *
like a spare MER that is cheap


There is no spare MER. MER was not cheap. There is nothing to launch it on. And given that money problems already exist in the Mars program - what, exactly, do you want to use to buy it all?


Doug
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siravan
post Sep 27 2008, 06:54 PM
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If MSL launch is in fact delayed until 2011, there is a small consolation that 2011 window is a better window than 2009 (that is IIRC). While this doesn't change the launch vehicle (I think it is going to be an Atlas V), it may allow for few extra kilograms of payload. If the EDL system has some margin, it might reduce the pressure on the engineering team to trim down the weight. If not, it may let them drop couple of solids and save few million $.
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Fran Ontanaya
post Sep 27 2008, 07:07 PM
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If a delay to 2011 allows to address the issues with low temperatures that put a question mark on some landing locations, an added benefit to the heavier payload could be possibly higher scientific return...

(We would be too busy looking at Endeavour in 2009 to notice that MSL isn't there yet, anyway. And I'm secretly hoping that Phoenix will survive.) rolleyes.gif



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mars loon
post Oct 3 2008, 04:11 PM
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According to this new report in Aviation Week on Oct 3, the outlook for MSL may be bleak and MSL may be cancelled

http://www.aviationweek.com/aw/generic/sto...ab%20In%20Doubt

Mars Science Lab In Doubt

Oct 3, 2008
By Frank Morring, Jr. and Jefferson Morris/Aerospace Daily & Defense Report

Top NASA managers will decide next week the fate of the Mars Science Laboratory, a nuclear-powered astrobiology rover that already has cost $1.5 billion and is likely to hit the 30-percent overrun ceiling that could trigger cancellation ......
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Vultur
post Oct 4 2008, 12:37 AM
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Ouch. I really, really hope they can finish building it. Most of the money's already been spent! Congress, please...
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gallen_53
post Oct 4 2008, 04:59 AM
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I have heard that $1.7 billion has already been spent on MSL. The two MER rovers cost $800 million total. For the cost of the MSL, we could have sent 4 MERs to Mars. I should add that this cost estimate is conservative given that much of the $800 million spent on MER was for technology development. With a new fleet of MERs, we could have spent the money simply cranking out clones of the original design. I suspect through economy of scale, we could have sent six MER clones to Mars for the money expended on MSL. In addition, multiple MERs stacked under one Atlas V launch faring could have been sent to Mars rather than single MERs individually launched on Delta-IIs as was done with MER A and B.
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djellison
post Oct 4 2008, 09:06 AM
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QUOTE (gallen_53 @ Oct 4 2008, 05:59 AM) *
. I suspect through economy of scale, we could have sent six MER clones to Mars for the money expended on MSL.


And not one of them with the instrumentation of MSL. And given that they struggled to find safe, scientifically compelling landing sites for two MER's - were are you sending the next six? What, realistically, could we learn with $1.whatever billion dollars of MER more than we have already.

The MER design was the best we had for an '04 launch - it's done it's job. Time to move on.

And seriously - if this debate comes up AGAIN - I'm going to start deleting posts.
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