Friday, March 22, 2019

The Mars 2020 Rover is About to Go Over Budget

          By Henry Stewart

NASA's current flagship robotics mission, the $2.46Bln US ($3.29Bln CDN) Mars 2020 rover, is "following the pattern of its predecessors and seeing its cost rise because of technical issues."

As outlined in the March 18th, 2019 Science post, "Cost of Mars 2020 mission may rise by up to 15%," the mission’s cost will increase by "no more than 15%" according to Lori Glade, NASA’s acting director of planetary science.

That's still a sizable sum and will take money away from other NASA missions. Cost growth above the 15% threshold would also trigger requirements for US Congressional notification and mission modifications, according to a plan put in place by NASA in 2016 intended to limit cost overruns.

As outlined in the March 19th, 2019 Space News post, "NASA dealing with cost growth on planetary science flagship missions," there had been "widespread rumors in the planetary science community that Mars 2020 was facing cost overruns."

According to the article:
The agency said problems with two instruments, the planetary instrument for x-ray lithochemistry and scanning habitable environments with raman and luminescence for organics and chemicals, as well as rover’s system for caching samples that will be returned to Earth by future missions, contributed to the cost growth.

Mars 2020 is part of a larger NASA multi-mission plan to collect Martian rock and soil samples for eventual return to Earth. Any cost overruns and delays in the Mars 2020 mission will likely also impact and delay the anticipated follow-on missions.

As outlined in the December 4th, 2018 Don't Let Go Canada post, "Canadian-Based Company Selected to Design Next-Generation Mars Rover," Brampton ON based MDA Space Systems will have the opportunity to contribute to the follow-on programs.

The Mars 2020 rover is currently scheduled to launch on in July 2020, and touch down in Jezero crater on Mars in February 2021.

Henry Stewart is the pseudonym of a Toronto based aerospace writer.

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