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Mars Space Lab in trouble

The press seems to be finally picking up on news that NASA’s Mars Space Laboratory (MSL), designed to look at mineralogy on the red planet and hunt for signs of life, is in trouble.

AP reports that Mike Griffin, NASA Administrator, told a congressional hearing on 13 Feb that the heat shield on the craft’s rover will have to be redesigned, pushing costs up and possibly delaying the craft’s proposed 2009 launch. Interested parties picked up the copy (Mars Society; Space.com).

It seems surprising that NASA, of all organisations, can’t get a heat shield right (this one was originally modeled on the space shuttle, apparently).

Aviation Week were on the case at the time of the hearing, although they don’t put a price on the extra work, which AP says will be between $20 and $30 million.

Aviation Week also followed up with a bleak prediction about the spiralling cost of the mission, now expected to hit $2 billion.

Apart from that, there wasn’t much coverage between the hearing itself and the AP copy – perhaps because the news was overshadowed by the United States deciding to shoot down a spy satellite (Nature News).

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