1. Headline
  1. Headline
The Mars Science Laboratory team's test rover "Scarecrow."
NASA/JPL-Caltech |
The Mars Science Laboratory team's test rover "Scarecrow," is shown. The rover is named such because it's still missing its computer brain. Cost overruns and technical problems may delay or even cancel the NASA Mars rover project.
updated 10/7/2008 2:13:14 PM ET 2008-10-07T18:13:14

A sophisticated NASA rover slated to blast off to chemically analyze Mars for life may be delayed, modified or canceled due to cost overruns triggered by technical problems.

Managers of the Mars Science Laboratory mission are meeting with top NASA officials this week in an attempt to find a solution to the quagmire.

"They're looking for a way to work this out," Guy Webster, a spokesman for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., told Discovery News.

Costs for the rover, originally projected at $1.2 billion, have climbed to more than $1.5 billion. Additional problems loom.

The project faces cancellation if it reaches 30 percent over budget, a scenario that seems increasingly likely, Aviation Week and Space Technology reported this week.

Mars Science Lab is scheduled for launch next year, but its assembly is behind schedule. NASA is concerned that rushing contractors to meet the launch window is an invitation to disaster. Yet delaying the launch until the next time Earth and Mars are favorably aligned would add another $300 million to $400 million to the endeavor.

NASA has been launching Mars probes every two years in an attempt to determine if the planet ever supported, or still supports, life.

Powered by pellets of decaying radioactive plutonium, Mars Science Lab is intended to collect soil and rock samples and analyze them for organics. The overall goal of the mission is to assess whether the landing area has or ever had the ingredients to host microbial life.

Mars Science Lab would have a much greater range and a far more sophisticated set of tools than the twin rovers Spirit and Opportunity, which have been exploring opposite equatorial regions of Mars since 2004. The new rover is four times heavier than the current rovers. Because it is powered by pellets of decaying radioactive plutonium instead of solar-energy, it can operate in more diverse situations and for longer periods of time.

Scientists are concerned that Mars Science Lab cost overruns may force NASA to cancel or delay other Mars probes including an atmospheric sciences mission selected last month. Long-term plans to return rock and soil samples from Mars also may be affected.

NASA has scheduled a meeting for Friday to attempt to resolve the issues.

© 2012 Discovery Channel


Discussion comments


Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments

More on TODAY.com

  1. Courtesy of Kristine Wach VanOrd

    22 photos that show the joy of adoption

    11/24/2014 1:30:35 PM +00:00 2014-11-24T13:30:35
  1. Save these sites and apps for the best Cyber Monday deals

    Looking for the best deals on Cyber Monday? Retailers keep most of their plans super secret but savvy shoppers can still plan ahead by lining up all their links and getting their bookmarks ready.

    11/24/2014 4:07:42 PM +00:00 2014-11-24T16:07:42
  1. Rachel Currier; Rachel Gurk; Nic

    You won't believe these delicious Thanksgving sides are gluten-free

    11/24/2014 4:59:22 PM +00:00 2014-11-24T16:59:22
  1. TODAY; AP

    Ex-NBC employee says he sent money to women for Bill Cosby

    11/24/2014 2:38:06 PM +00:00 2014-11-24T14:38:06
  1. Getty Images; Reuters

    Backless gowns and big hair: See who dazzled at the AMAs

    11/24/2014 1:16:43 PM +00:00 2014-11-24T13:16:43