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News from NASA December 4, 2008

Posted by Sarah in science.
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A few interesting news snippets from NASA!

First, A launch date has been set for the Hubble servicing mission. Originally planned for October 2008, NASA’s final trip to upgrade Hubble was delayed due to a failure of the on-board data handling system. The new launch date is 12 May 2009 – so mark your diaries! During the mission, astronauts will install a few new instruments, a UV spectrograph and an optical/UV imager, and carry out some crucial fixes to the on-board hardware to take the telescope into the next decade. I know a few astronomers who are eagerly awaiting the upgrade!

The launch of NASA’s next Mars mission, Mars Science Laboratory, however, is being delayed by 2 years to late 2011. The reason is technical difficulties with this hugely complex rover mission. NASA big boss Mike Griffin in the conference said that already years ago scientists knew “the mission was aggressively pursuing a 2009 launch”; to me this reads thathey knew there would be a good chance the launch would eventually get delayed by a couple of years. The flipside of the delay is that the mission will incur extra costs estimated around $400 million; delays to other planetary missions are likely to be needed to cover those costs.

There was much discussion at the news conference on the budget of missions, why cost overruns occur, and indeed what defines “cost overruns”. More about that in the next post.

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