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文章阅读:Mars Science Laboratory Delayed to 2011
[同主题阅读] [版面: 航空航天] [作者:ZZGR] , 2008年12月06日13:21:52
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发信人: ZZGR (闲逛), 信区: Aviation
标  题: Mars Science Laboratory Delayed to 2011
发信站: BBS 未名空间站 (Sat Dec  6 13:21:52 2008)

By Andrea Thompson
Senior Writer
posted: 04 December 2008
12:25 pm ET

The Mars Science Laboratory mission, a jumbo rover originally slated to
launch for the red planet next year, has been delayed until 2011, NASA
announced today.

"We will not be ready to launch by the hoped-for date next year," said NASA
Administrator Michael Griffin at a briefing.

A major review of the mission conducted earlier this year had concluded that
MSL "had a solid chance of making the 2009 launch" if the launch window was
extended into October 2009, which was done, and an additional $200 million
was added to the project, said Ed Weiler, associate administrator for NASA's
Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C.

But new technical issues that came up since that review as well as missed
delivery schedules have prompted NASA officials to further delay the mission
to avoid a "mad dash to launch," Weiler said. "Failure on this mission is
not an option, the science is too important," he added.

The MSL rover has a complex suite of instruments that can test the Martian
surface for signs of past potential habitability, including onboard
chemistry labs and a laser that can zap rocks to determine their composition.

The rover may also leave some of its originally-planned equipment behind.

The rover is much larger than its Mars Exploration Rover (MER) cousins,
Spirit and Opportunity, weighing in at about 2,040 pounds (925 kg) and
currently still operating on Mars. MSL will also use a completely novel way
of getting down to its landing site called Sky Crane, which will have cords
that attach it to the lander. As the rover falls to the surface, the Sky
Crane's thrusters should slow the rover's descent as the crane uses the
cords to lower the lander.

The mission now is delayed for two years because launch windows to Mars are
few and far between because of the relative positions of Mars and Earth.

"We're really only a few months behind schedule, not two years behind
schedule," said Doug McCuistion, director of the Mars Exploration Program at
NASA Headquarters.

Landing sites for the mission, which were recently whittled down to a final
four, will likely be unaffected by the delay, McCuistion said.

The delay will add an estimated $400 million to the mission, which could
impact other NASA programs, McCuistion said. NASA will aim to delay programs
instead of cutting any, officials said at a briefing today.

The particular technical issues delaying the mission are with the rover's
actuators, which McCuistion describes as a combination of a motor and a gear
box. The actuators control anything in the rover that moves, including the
wheels and robotic arms.

"They're absolutely crucial to the success of this mission," McCuistion said
. Without them "we'd basically have a metric ton of junk on the surface" of
Mars, he added.

Most of the rover's hardware has been completed and the two years until
launch will be spent dealing with the actuators and any other technical
issues that crop up.

"It's not like it's going in a big plastic bag and sitting in the corner for
two years," McCuistion said.

Griffin said: "I have full confidence in the JPL [Jet Propulsion Laboratory]
team to work through the difficulties."
--

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