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MSL Cost Caps and de-scoping - Sept '07
Rakhir
post Sep 16 2007, 07:43 PM
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Very bad news. sad.gif
It's certainly the best way to run the business of cost overruns but even if we are used to these kind of consequences, it's always sad to hear.

NASA cuts LANL sampler from next Mars rover
http://www.lamonitor.com/articles/2007/09/...news/news02.txt

Edit :
And also...
http://www.aviationweek.com/aw/generic/sto...p;channel=space
http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewsr.rss.sp....html?pid=25415

... removal of the Mars Descent Imager (MARDI) and the zoom capability on the mast camera...
... SAM and CheMin were cost-capped...
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Jeff7
post Sep 16 2007, 08:56 PM
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Wow, it sounds like they really stripped out a lot of instrumentation. In addition to those mentioned, other highlights:

"A rock-surface grinder will be replaced with a brushing tool..."


It seems like a real shame though.

I was looking forward to the zoom capability on the camera lens. Maybe they figure that the rover will have enough mobility to let it drive directly up to interesting targets? And it's not as though they'll be landing it any place with steep canyons or cliffs, where it would be completely unable to get a good look without a zoom lens.

I'm sure it will still launch with a good set of instruments to get the job done.
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Guest_Sunspot_*
post Sep 16 2007, 08:58 PM
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They might as well just re-launch an MER rover now.
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SteveM
post Sep 16 2007, 09:25 PM
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Sad to hear all these cuts but at least one of them, cutting out the zoom lens, might be a good thing. I've always felt that adding a zoom lens added unnecessary complexity to maintaining the scale calibration of images taken. Doing away with the zoom factor makes a whole range of image calculations simpler and more reliable.

I wait for comments from the imaging experts.

Steve
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djellison
post Sep 16 2007, 09:56 PM
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The loss of MARDI seems bizarre - because iirc - it's a MARDI derivative that turns into JunoCam. Will Juno have to find cash to get JunoCAM finished and onboard - or will it be dropped there as well?

The loss of zoom on MastCam sucks - because that takes away the potential for wide angle HDTV movies. I guess they'll re-design for a Pancam-similar resolution.

And dropping the grinder...well, surely Honeybee could build to print an MER RAT?

All that said - the vehicle is still far far and away a better platform for exploration than an MER - saying they should just launch one of those instead is an over-reaction.

Doug
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slinted
post Sep 16 2007, 10:33 PM
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If it doesn't make the payload, ChemCam will be surely missed, since it would have helped to bridge the "Burns Cliff" (and now Victoria Crater) gap (between what you can reach with the arm and what you can see with the cameras).

What is the meaning of "cost capping" SAM and CheMin? If they overrun any more, they'll be cut too?

edit: although, I'm probably getting way ahead of the game to think of it being cut. ChemCam has just had its funding halted, but with it already 90% done, I'm sure they'll find a way.
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monitorlizard
post Sep 16 2007, 11:21 PM
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If nothing else, these cuts will put "the fear of God" into every future proposer of a planetary mission. Maybe we'll stop seeing MESSENGER and Dawn- type cost overruns.

Still, it's a shame to see these cuts. If the PI's involved were allowed to be a little more creative in getting funding, they could go to private sources to make up the shortfall. The Keck Foundation put up tens of millions of dollars for their namesake telescope, they could pitch in a couple of million for ChemCam if they chose to. And I hear Tom Hanks is a space enthusiast. I'd contribute a few bucks to a funding drive. It could be done if the will was there, but probably won't.
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mcaplinger
post Sep 17 2007, 02:14 AM
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QUOTE (Steve @ Sep 16 2007, 02:25 PM) *
Sad to hear all these cuts but at least one of them, cutting out the zoom lens, might be a good thing. I've always felt that adding a zoom lens added unnecessary complexity to maintaining the scale calibration of images taken. Doing away with the zoom factor makes a whole range of image calculations simpler and more reliable.

Doing away with the camera altogether would make all those calculations even simpler, but that doesn't make it a good idea, does it? rolleyes.gif

I think we had the zoom calibration under control. I wouldn't count the zoom out quite yet.


--------------------
Disclaimer: This post is based on public information only. Any opinions are my own.
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Eluchil
post Sep 17 2007, 04:21 AM
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It's a real shame about ChemCam, but NASA doesn't really have much choice unless Congress loosens the purse strings. The LA Monitor article suggests that alternate funding might come through to keep it on the payload, that would be ideal. As for the RAT descope, I thought that the grinder was to be integrated with the sample collection device so that would prevent using a MER RAT.
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Stephen
post Sep 17 2007, 06:52 AM
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QUOTE (Eluchil @ Sep 17 2007, 02:21 PM) *
It's a real shame about ChemCam, but NASA doesn't really have much choice unless Congress loosens the purse strings.

Isn't ChemCam the MSL equivalent of the MERs' Mini-TES: it is used to gain an idea of the composition of rocks and soils from a distance so as identify promising targets for the in-situ instruments. If it gets bumped what will be used to replace it? Or will there be no replacement, leaving the MSL team to decide which rocks to do in situ analysis on solely on the basis of what the cameras show them?

Incidentally, is it my imagination or has the remote instrumention page been pulled from the MSL site on JPL's Mars Program site? (The in-situ instrument one is still there.)

http://marsprogram.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/techno...umentation.html

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Stephen
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algorimancer
post Sep 17 2007, 05:24 PM
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QUOTE (mcaplinger @ Sep 16 2007, 09:14 PM) *
I think we had the zoom calibration under control. I wouldn't count the zoom out quite yet.


My own concerns with regard to the zoom function (as mentioned previously in a different thread) were due to the increased potential for mechanical failure. Obviously the camera model would be very dependent upon the zoom level, so a more recent unvoiced concern has been with getting good information as to the actual zoom level at the moment the image is acquired, and specifically with just how accurate and precise this data can be. Presumably if it is driven by some sort of stepper motor then we'll have rather good knowledge of the zoom state.

I really like the zoom function - I hope they manage to keep it.
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Guest_Geographer_*
post Sep 18 2007, 02:24 PM
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Is there a possibility other nations could fund ChemCam like they're doing with Phoenix? Or if not, could it be replaced by a cheaper instrument? Where will the weight savings go?
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djellison
post Sep 18 2007, 02:25 PM
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QUOTE (Geographer @ Sep 18 2007, 03:24 PM) *
Where will the weight savings go?


Back into the 'margin' column, to get swallowed by other systems I would have thought smile.gif

Doug
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gpurcell
post Sep 18 2007, 09:15 PM
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Well, there was Stern's talk about integrating sample collection capacity for a future sample return into this mission...wonder how much weight they would need to carve out for that.

Stern has asked a tiger team at NASA's Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif., to design sample caching gear to be installed on the Mars Science Laboratory. A small, hockey puck-sized device is being studied, seen as a "secondary payload" to be attached to the rover.

The final study results from the Ames team on the caching hardware are due by the end of July or early August, reported Chris McKay, a planetary scientist at the space agency field center who is helping to assess the feasibility of the Mars Science Laboratory add-on. Preliminary discussions also are under way with officials in the European Space Agency's ExoMars rover project to carry similar sample caching equipment on board that 2013 mission.


http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/0707...mplereturn.html
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monitorlizard
post Sep 21 2007, 05:55 AM
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If it turns out that ChemCam doesn't make it onto MSL, I think it will be the equivalent of when the Raman spectrometer was dropped from the MER rovers. I know Steve Squyres really regretted not being able to fly that instrument, and I'm sure it did hurt the science return, since it would have been the only instrument able to identify organic molecules in the MER payload. But look at what we did get from Spirit and Opportunity: a rich science return beyond what anyone anticipated. Most people don't think of MER as a compromised mission these days. I really hope ChemCam does fly in '09, but I have no doubt MSL will still be a spectacular mission if it doesn't.

It does seem fishy that Dr. Stern found the money to design and add a sample cache to MSL at the same time there wasn't enough to finish an already approved instrument.
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