NASA delays unmanned Mars mission for two years

December 5th, 2008 - 4:23 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Dec 5 (RIA Novosti) The head of US space agency NASA has said the Mars Science Laboratory’s (MSL) unmanned mission to the red planet will be delayed for two years until the fall of 2011 due to technical difficulties.The launch of the Rover had been scheduled for October 2009, but NASA said on its website that “testing and hardware challenges must be addressed to ensure mission success,” and that the next launch opportunity after 2009 would be in 2011.

“Trying for 2009 would require us to assume too much risk, more than I think is appropriate for a flagship mission,” Michael Griffin told journalists.

The delay, the second in two years, is expected to see an increase in the Mars Science Laboratory’s costs of $400 million to a total of $2.3 billion.

Doug McCuistion, director of the Mars Exploration Program at NASA headquarters in Washington, said: “We will not lessen our standards for testing the mission’s complex flight systems, so we are choosing the more responsible option of changing the launch date.”

The MSL is due to attempt a precision landing on Mars for the first time.

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