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MSL Cost Caps and de-scoping - Sept '07
Mariner9
post Oct 23 2007, 05:38 PM
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I can't find the link now, but I've seen a table that showed the insturmentation suite on MSL, and listed for each one the percentage cost overrun.

Many of the instruments were signifigantly over budget. Some by 60-70 percent and more.

Of course the scientists on the project want Chem Cam back, and I sympathize. I hope it is restored.

But consider, this is not the first, nor second, cost overrun on MSL that has made it's way to headquaters. It is the third. And given how late in the game we are, the managers on MSL had to have seen this coming a while ago.

Space missions are tough, and I don't want to play armchair quarterback. MSL has a lot of challenges, and some new technolgies. That can be a real bear to manage and know how much it's going to cost.

But how many cost overruns is a mission supposed to have before someone in charge has to stay "enough" ? How much extra money does MSL get at the expense of some other project that is staying within budget? Isn't that rewarding a project that is in trouble, by punishing ones that are not?

It was a tough call for Alan Stern. I don't envy him the job.
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monitorlizard
post Oct 23 2007, 07:21 PM
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I don't think anyone at NASA, including Alan Stern, expects MSL to launch without ChemCam. But NASA is playing a high stakes game of bluff expecting someone else to come in and pay for its overrun. France is a major partner on the instrument. What if they say "we don't have any extra money either"? Everyone can live with all of the other MSL descopes, but losing ChemCam would be a major blow to the science return of the mission.

I thought NASA was trying to keep its international partners happy. This is not the way to do it.
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nprev
post Oct 23 2007, 07:40 PM
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Not to play PM here, but what's causing the overruns? Is it technology development/risk alone, or is there some sort of management issue? (Usually the default position when inquiries begin, but I dislike taking that view, esp. when considering UMSF & developmental articles).


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stevesliva
post Oct 23 2007, 09:07 PM
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QUOTE (monitorlizard @ Oct 23 2007, 03:21 PM) *
But NASA is playing a high stakes game of bluff expecting someone else to come in and pay for its overrun.

I believe that the better term for NASA stance is "call." The bluff being the budgeted amount for the instrument. Having been called, ChemCam is deciding whether to raise or fold. Maybe you're right and they'll hit a better hand on what France deals them.
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mcaplinger
post Oct 23 2007, 10:37 PM
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QUOTE (Mariner9 @ Oct 23 2007, 10:38 AM) *
I can't find the link now, but I've seen a table that showed the insturmentation suite on MSL, and listed for each one the percentage cost overrun.

Many of the instruments were signifigantly over budget. Some by 60-70 percent and more.

The link is in post 39 of this thread.

I would dispute the accuracy of the cost figures in that table based on what I know, but you'd have to take that up with MEPAG.


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nprev
post Oct 23 2007, 11:27 PM
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QUOTE (stevesliva @ Oct 23 2007, 02:07 PM) *
I believe that the better term for NASA stance is "call." The bluff being the budgeted amount for the instrument. Having been called, ChemCam is deciding whether to raise or fold. Maybe you're right and they'll hit a better hand on what France deals them.


I think you're right, and please forgive this rage against the machine: what crap. Don't have to be like this, should not be like this for a fundamental mission requirement, period. This churn would be more forgiveable if ChemCam was a late add-on, but clearly it wasn't.

Poker-style trade-offs are more properly reserved for add-ons, once the core requirements are met. Distressed that this sort of politicking is happening over a core capability instrument.


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tedstryk
post Oct 24 2007, 12:19 AM
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This constantly happens. When budget issues come up, both within NASA and when Congress is funding NASA (as well as just about every other program), they will often threaten to cut things to see if anyone screams, showing that the program or item has a constituency that cares about it. It is annoying process, but one I don't see changing.


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mcaplinger
post Nov 9 2007, 05:17 AM
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ChemCam and MARDI have been reinstated as MSL instruments:
http://www.marstoday.com/news/viewsr.html?pid=25991


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djellison
post Nov 9 2007, 07:50 AM
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A difficult trade - but I'm very very glad that MARDI is back. No word on MastCam though sadly.

Doug
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Eluchil
post Nov 9 2007, 07:44 PM
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I am very happy to see ChemCam back. The process is annoying (if nothing else) but NASA managed to get other partners to cover ~80% of the cost overrun which is a huge help given the state of science budgets.
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algorimancer
post Nov 9 2007, 08:59 PM
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QUOTE (djellison @ Nov 9 2007, 01:50 AM) *
...No word on MastCam though...

I wasn't so concerned about MARDI, but I really hope that they manage to restore the zoom capability to MastCam. The hidef video capability of the camera virtually mandates the zoom capability, otherwise it will be like looking at the world through a tunnel; aside from that, the zoom is a nice-to-have feature, but otherwise we've gotten pretty good at assembling panoramas - and it is still a color camera without the need of filters.
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ustrax
post Nov 9 2007, 09:57 PM
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QUOTE (monitorlizard @ Oct 23 2007, 07:21 PM) *
I don't think anyone at NASA, including Alan Stern, expects MSL to launch without ChemCam. But NASA is playing a high stakes game of bluff expecting someone else to come in and pay for its overrun. France is a major partner on the instrument. What if they say "we don't have any extra money either"? Everyone can live with all of the other MSL descopes, but losing ChemCam would be a major blow to the science return of the mission.

I thought NASA was trying to keep its international partners happy. This is not the way to do it.


You are the man!...and France the cashier... wink.gif


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climber
post Nov 12 2007, 09:17 PM
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QUOTE (ustrax @ Nov 9 2007, 10:57 PM) *
...and France the cashier... wink.gif

You know what ? I'm Happy !
Attached Image


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monitorlizard
post Nov 13 2007, 03:53 AM
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I found an interesting report and perspective from Los Alamos (project lead for ChemCam) titled "ChemCam Status October 2007" ( full report at "libs.lanl.gov/ChemCam_status.html"). Here's an excerpt:

"NASA's reason for cutting off funding was stated as "cost overruns." However, NASA Headquarters may have based their judgement only on the proposal total of $6.9 M rather than ChemCam's Management Plan, signed by JPL, LANL, and CNES. The Management Plan included upscoping the management, QA, and systems engineering. It also included a change of construction materials requested by the MSL project. This was done to help the MSL project's mass budget, and was done at an agreed upon cost increase of several hundred thousand dollars. ChemCam only made this change at the request of the MSL project. The changes incorporated in the Management Plan are not cost overruns."

It hardly seems fair to require an instrument team to make an expensive change, then criticize them for going over budget. There's a lot more of interest in the report. I was most impressed by this: "ChemCam is built for up to 14,000 analyses compared to the ~75 analyses for the in-situ instruments."
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mcaplinger
post Nov 13 2007, 04:56 AM
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QUOTE (monitorlizard @ Nov 12 2007, 07:53 PM) *
It hardly seems fair to require an instrument team to make an expensive change, then criticize them for going over budget.

Welcome to my world. rolleyes.gif


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