If the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) landing on Mars fails “we will dust ourselves off and try again,” says Doug McCuistion, the Mars Exploration Program Director for NASA.
He said Presidential Science Advisor John P. Holdren is present at JPL for the landing. It is doubtful McCuistion would be that forthright about a reflight if he did not have at least a degree of support from the Obama Administration for it.
There will be a period of greif and mourning, but we will pick ourselves up and carry on,” said John Grunsfeld NASA associate administrator for space science.
Project manager Pete Theisinger tells AmericaSpace “there are a enough spares and qualification hardware left from the original MSL development that a second Curiosity rover development would be possible in a relatively short time depending upon funding.”
“We do not know exactly what a replacement would look like but it would not cost $2.5 billion,” said Theisinger , MSL’s current cost including overruns.
“We do not want to repeat the mistakes that led to a span of 36 years between twin Viking Landers that both had analytical laboratories and MSL that also has labs as part of its science payload
The MSL spacecraft is now within 112,000 mi. of Mars and begun its formal Entry Descent and Landing (EDL) approach , pointed 1 deg. off the Earth and 37 deg. off the Sun. The heaters within the catalytic beds for the Mars Landing Engines have been turned on to prepare them to fire several hours from now.
Although the vehicle’s trajectory is off by a few thousand feet, managers have decided to bypass the trajectory corrections maneuvers that were available both yesterday and today to instead allow the vehicle active guidance to correct that error during the descent, said Brian Portock MSL mission manager.
About the author
Senior writer Craig Covault has covered 17 U. S., Russian and European Mars orbiter and lander missions over the last 40 years, most of them with Aviation Week & Space Technology and now with AmericaSpace.
Favorites include his coverage at the NASA Langley Research Center of the development of the 1976 Viking 1 and 2 landers and the landings and surface coverage from the JPL of the Spirit and Opportunity rovers in 2004. Steve Squyres Mars Exploration Rover Principal Investigator allowed Covault exclusive JPL access to the science and surface operations teams after Spirit and Opportunity landed.
Covault also did extensive coverage of the Phoenix North Polar Lander development and its descent to the Martian arctic in 2008.
Covault began interviews and hardware familiarization with Mars Science Laboratory Rover and Sky Crane developments at JPL starting in 2004 and was able to see the Curiosity and the Sky Crane hardware take shape throughout the development including an initial look a Curiosity when it was just a block of aluminum with holes being milled into it.
AmericaSpace and The Mars Society have partnered to provide in-depth coverage of the arrival of the Mars Science Laboratory rover “Curiosity” to Mars. Stay tuned for regular updates as AmericaSpace correspondents Craig Covault and Frank O’Brien travel to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California for live coverage.