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.
By
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.

  1. More from TODAY.com
    1. Buying running shoes? Here’s what to expect

      Whether you are thinking about signing up for your first 5K or are gearing up for a full marathon, the first two steps in ...

    2. Catch up on all the news of the week with ‘The Download’
    3. Missing Oscar dress worn by Lupita Nyong’o may be found
    4. Jeb Bush tries to make the case for 2016 to conservatives at CPAC
    5. Staff steal the show at one-of-a-kind movie house

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

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

More on TODAY.com

  1. Shutterstock

    Buying running shoes? Here’s what to expect

    2/28/2015 12:52:17 PM +00:00 2015-02-28T12:52:17
  1. TODAY

    'Sex Box': Couples therapy or reality show trash?

    2/28/2015 2:57:40 PM +00:00 2015-02-28T14:57:40
  1. TODAY

    video Catch up on all the news of the week with ‘The Download’

    2/28/2015 12:58:44 PM +00:00 2015-02-28T12:58:44
  1. Unique Vision Photography

    Since groom's moving vows to stepdaughter, this blended family's grown

    2/27/2015 10:04:41 PM +00:00 2015-02-27T22:04:41
  1. TODAY

    video Jeb Bush tries to make the case for 2016 to conservatives at CPAC

    2/28/2015 12:30:14 PM +00:00 2015-02-28T12:30:14