NASA Still Aiming For September/October Mars Science Laboratory Launch Next Year; Funding Will Be An Issue For Lawmakers
NASA still will try to launch the Mars Science Laboratory about a year from now, rather than waiting for another window two years later, even though provision of some hardware for the lab is running late.
But the program is over budget, with a price tag running about $1.9 billion instead of $1.6 billion.
If Congress doesn’t spring for the added funding, perhaps NASA could juggle funds from other programs, although the space agency has been doing that a great deal in recent years. Congress earlier this year didn’t provide the $1 billion that Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) sought to refund NASA for part of its $2.9 billion of costs to recover from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster in 2003. That has left the space agency no alternative but to cannibalize other programs to find funds for shuttle safety improvements.
The Mars lab, a geologist/meteorologist that will make a precision landing on the red planet and become a heavyweight rover, will have an important mission, to see whether Mars presently or in the past might support life.