Undercutting Mars Phoenix Science Team

Mars exploration: Phoenix: a race against time, Nature

"On missions led by principal investigators, such as the Discoveries and Scouts, NASA is supposed to defer to the scientist in charge on all matters of scientific operation. But Phoenix was high profile and some of its instruments a little erratic. At headquarters, everyone from Administrator Michael Griffin down was involved in daily reviews of the mission, says Doug McCuistion, Mars exploration programme chief at NASA. At the end of June, word came down that the Phoenix team was to treat its next TEGA sample as its last, and to go after a sample of rock-hard ice before it did anything else. The Tucson team had lost its autonomy. "We stepped in, I'll be honest," says McCuistion. Boynton -- a bit of a bulldog when it came to keeping control over his instrument -- acknowledges the logic: "NASA was really afraid ... that if we never got the ice it would be embarrassing." But he and Smith still resent the way that the mission was taken over. "That's not the way you do these things," says Smith. "That's why we were pushed at the end."

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This page contains a single entry by Keith Cowing published on December 12, 2008 8:54 PM.

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