MSL Cost Issues: SMD Prevails

Two Instruments Restored to the Mars Science Laboratory, Planetary Society

"This is a victory for space science and Mars exploration -- The Planetary Society had protested the decision to cut these instruments from the project. We congratulate and thank Alan Stern for overturning this earlier decision."

Editor's note: There is an important distinction to make here. This Planetary Society memo gives a somewhat erroneous impression - as if opponents to this decision somehow prevailed and that NASA somehow relented - i.e. that a victory was won. That did not happen. Rather, Alan Stern and SMD prevailed. Stern did not "overturn his earlier decision". SMD's position on cost over runs has not changed. Instead, the initial problem that caused Stern to make the decision has been changed, rendering part of his initial decision moot.Reading the memo carefully, one can see that Stern said "Malin Space Science Systems has agreed that there will be no additional costs to NASA for the completion of the Mars Descent Imager (MARDI). Furthermore, funds returned to the Mars Exploration Program from the unfortunate elimination of MARDI operations on Phoenix will be used to support MARDI integration on MSL." and also that "In the case of ChemCam, LANL, the French Space Agency (CNES), and even other MSL instrument team members have developed a series of descopes and support arrangements to allow instrument completion, reducing the development cost-to-go by a little over 80%--i.e." In other words, instrument developers cut back so as to accommodate Stern's initial concerns.

Again, SMD's position on costs did not change. Note the original memo's mention of a "change from a rock grinding tool to a rock brushing tool". This decision still stands. Stern did not budge. Neither did SMD. Rather, instrument developers got the message - and SMD prevailed. An equally strong stance has been taken with regard to costs issues on Kepler, SDO, and other projects. MSL is not an isolated instance. Stay tuned.

Mars Science Laboratory Instrumentation Announcement from Alan Stern and Jim Green, NASA Headquarters

Push back on MSL cuts, earlier post

Mars Science Laboratory Project Changes Respond to Cost Increases, Keep Mars Program On Track, NASA

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This page contains a single entry by Keith Cowing published on November 11, 2007 7:56 PM.

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