Guam News Factor –
In a recent development, an independent review board has raised concerns over NASA’s ambitious Mars Sample Return mission, stating that it faces significant challenges and is unlikely to meet its current cost and schedule expectations. The findings of this review have caught the attention of the space community and have prompted NASA to establish its own team to review the report and provide recommendations for the mission’s path forward.
The independent review board’s report describes the Mars Sample Return mission as highly constrained and challenging. It points out that unrealistic budget and schedule expectations were set right from the beginning. The mission, which involves multiple spacecraft, is considered one of the most complex undertakings in NASA’s history.
One of the key recommendations from the review board is to shift the launch readiness from 2028 to 2030, as it suggests there is a near zero probability that the lander and orbiter will be ready by the earlier targeted date. The report also highlights NASA’s struggle with budgeting and scheduling for the mission, which led to the establishment of the review board.
While the official cost estimate for the mission has not been declared, the report estimates that the full lifecycle cost could range between $8 billion and $11 billion. Notably, the mission received $822.3 million in the 2023 spending bill, and NASA has requested $949.3 million for Mars Sample Return in its budget proposal for 2024. However, failure to provide a funding profile within the outlined lifecycle cost could potentially result in the cancellation of the mission.
Despite the challenges, the review board emphasizes the significance of the Mars Sample Return mission in NASA’s broader Mars exploration program. The mission aims to collect samples from Mars that may hold clues about the potential for life beyond Earth and revolutionize our understanding of the history of Mars and the Solar System. To ensure its success, the review board also urges NASA to improve communication about the mission’s importance to the public and stakeholders.
NASA has set a goal to receive recommendations from its internal team on the mission’s path forward by the second quarter of 2024. It remains to be seen how the space agency will address the challenges highlighted by the review board and navigate the complexities of the Mars Sample Return mission.
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