NASA Delays the Launch of its Nuclear-Powered Robotic Tank

December 5, 2008

There are unresolved technical issues related to NASA’s nuclear-powered robotic tank that have forced NASA to delay its Mars tank launch by two years. The Mars mission which was originally scheduled to launch next year, was NASA’s next ambitious launch but is now delayed till 2011 .

The Mars Science Laboratory is not set to be launched due to lengthening delays and technical glitches. The SUV sized rover was to explore the Martian surface for two years. The technical issues with the spacecraft’s electrical motors remain unresolved. The scientists felt that they no longer thought that they could meet the schedule of launching  next year unless they rushed the testing program. “We’ve determined that trying for ‘09 would require us to assume too much risk, more than I think is appropriate for a flagship mission like Mars Science Laboratory,” Michael D. Griffin, NASA’s administrator, said at a news conference Thursday. Dr. Griffith said that they would try to find the least damaging way in finding a solution and without disrupting other planetary projects.

Budget for the Mars Science Laboratory has already swelled to $1.88 billion as compared to the earlier sanctioned amount of $1.63 billion. These delays further add to costs for NASA. Scientists now feel that they need another $200 million to meet the 2009 launch date. However the $200 million needed to speed up the work will roll into $400 million with additional testing spread over several years. It would finally bring the mission cost to $2.3 billion.


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