THE WOODLANDS, Texas – While NASA's entire planetary sciences program has record funding levels, the agency is struggling in two of its largest missions with cost growth confirming that the Mars 2020 rover mission is only 16 months ahead of its planned launch with rising costs is confronted. The agency said that problems with two instruments, the planetary instrument for X-ray lithochemistry and the scanning of habitable environments with Raman and luminescence for organic matter and chemicals, as well as the Rover system for caching samples returned to earth from future missions too This has been helped by cost growth.
There were widespread rumors in the planetary science community that Mars was facing cost overruns in 2020, but the budget document is the first time NASA has publicly recognized these transgressions. The document did not reveal the size of the overflow, but said it would "report these changes in the upcoming 201
"Yes, there has been cost growth" with Mars 2020, said Lori Glaze, NASA's Deputy Director of Planetary Sciences, at a Town Hall meeting on March 18 at the 50th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference here. "That's less than 15 percent over the agreed cost for [Mars] 2020."
NASA estimated the cost of Mars 2020 to be $ 2.1 billion, plus $ 300 million for the first year in which the mission reached a milestone known as Key Decision Point C in 2016 This would limit cost growth to $ 360 million, although Glaze later declined to give a specific estimate of the mission's cost increase. Cost growth above the 15 percent threshold would trigger requirements for Congressional notification and rescheduling of the mission.
Glaze said NASA would avoid the impact on planetary missions outside the Mars program because of the cost overrun. "There was a very strict approach to trying to find the project first for the economies and finding a way to cover part of the cost growth and outside of it to visit the Mars program," she said. The goal is to "minimize the impact on the entire planet's portfolio".
Later, she told reporters that it was unlikely that NASA would take big steps because of its limited savings, such as the removal of an instrument from Mars 2020 at this late stage of development. "There is already a tremendous amount of hardware built, integrated and tested for Mars 2020," she said. Instead, she said that the agency is looking for "small efficiencies" in Mars 2020 to cut its costs, such as deferred labor.
Elsewhere in the Mars program, Glaze said NASA is considering "small decreases" on other mission missions, as well as cost savings from the end of the opportunity mission. NASA spent $ 12.5 million on Opportunity in fiscal year 2018. Other funding could come from the Mars Future Missions program, which primarily supports the planning of future returns of Mars samples. "We tried to spread it so that no one feels all the pain," she said.
During the town hall meeting, Glaze also faced the decision that NASA had announced on March 5 to remove one of the instruments from another flagship planetary science mission, Europa Clipper. NASA said that it is the magnetometry characterization tool of Europe (ICEMAG), a magnetometer designed to measure the magnetic field around the icy moon of Jupiter, due to the substantial cost growth continued by Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA's associate science administrator had removed and a high cost risk. "
During the question and answer section of the Town Hall meeting, a scientist, Britney Schmidt from Georgia Tech, noted that ICEMAG was an important part of the mission studies that led to Europe Clipper's ability to navigate the interior of Europe and its subterranean ocean explore. She said there was a "major housing problem" when NASA selected nine instruments for a mission that would once carry four or five, wondering why NASA did not accept a retracted or "run-down" version of the instrument ICEMAG team and not the Agency's plan to operate its own instrument.
Similar concerns arose from the Outer Planets Assessment Group, an advisory panel that published "special findings" about the ICEMAG on 13 March outside the usual briefing cycle. "For those who were not involved in the process, this news was completely surprising," the group said about the decision to remove the ICEMAG. "We encourage NASA to ensure that these or other termination decisions are transparent and avoid the [principal investigator] led experiment team being given a seemingly punitive decision that is disproportionate to the challenges the team faces."
Glaze The costs alone were not the reason for the removal of ICEMAG. "The focus is not so much on the overall cost growth, but on the other risks associated with the design and approach," she said. "Most of the concern was about future risks and the fact that the instrument did not stabilize."
The decision to remove ICEMAG, but none of the Mars 2020 instruments, is based on an earlier phase of Europa Clipper development , she said. "We're trying to avoid ending up in the same position with the process implemented on Clipper," she said.
The challenges facing Europe Clipper and Mars 2020 are in contrast to the rest of the planetary science program, which is enjoying the growth of funding. Congress provided nearly $ 2.76 billion to the program in the 2019 budget, an amount that Glaze considered a record for the program. The budget proposal of the administration for the financial year 2020 calls for 2.62 billion US dollars a little less for planetary research.
Glaze told reporters that NASA wants to be aware that NASA wants to keep cost growth under control for its biggest missions by advocacy groups like the National Academies. "The intent here is that NASA is taking the direction of the National Academies seriously takes, "she said. "If we build big missions in the future, big flagship missions, we want to take them seriously."