Washington – five weeks of partial closure of the government at the beginning of this year, which is delayed elements of other NASA missions possible, gave a reprieve of sorts for the issues paper for the next mission agency of Mars.
During the March 27 presentation to the Committee of the National Academies of astrobiology and planetary science here, Ken Farley, project scientist for the Mars 2020, said NASA sent a mission last December, to hold a "termination / continuation of the" review for scanning habitable environments with Roman and luminescence Organics and to chemicals (SHERLOC), one of the tools on the rover.
"It was a combination of technical problems and high costs of risk, which means that it was not clear exactly how the tool had to be, because there were technical problems that have not yet been overcome," he said.
This review was originally scheduled for early January, he said, but was delayed by five weeks of partial stop the government, which started December 22 folding all but the main activities of the agency. Overview finally took place in late January and early February, ended after completion.
"We were actually able to do a fair bit of progress in resolving some technical problems" during this time, Farley said. After the inspection, the NASA leadership sent a mission to continue to develop SHERLOC with "relatively minor changes to the procedures used to minimize further growth in costs and minimize the risk of schedule."
Farley added that the mission sought «descopes» on the tool, which will reduce its capacity, but also to reduce its technical risk and cost. "In principle, there was no sign of anything that could be done," he said.
The device is mounted on the rover arm, carries a suite of instruments, a camera and a laser to study the Martian rocks. Scientists plan to use the tool to search for minerals or organic material that may be evidence of past Martian life.
Farley, speaking Telecon Committee that laser spectrometer instrument component is scheduled for delivery in the JPL this summer for integration into the spacecraft. There are backup plans, though, including allowing the device to be installed on the rover after it is sent to Cape Canaveral, Florida, in January next year to 2020 the beginning of July.
He did not elaborate on the details of the problem devices, but said that this was due to a source of high voltage power supply of the laser for it. "If I could convey one message to the scientific community, is deeply thinking about the high voltage power supply on Mars, because they were a real problem for us," he said. "Mars is a terrible environment for such efforts, so we have problems with electric arc."
SHERLOC was one of the reasons cited NASA mission overspending. The agency, in its request financial 2020, said the problem with another device, the planetary instrument budget March 18 for the X-ray Lithochemistry, as well as caching rover sample led to an increase in mission expenses.
NASA did not provide more detailed information on this increase in expenditure. During the meeting, the NASA Hall at the 50th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference March 18, Lori Lori Fuel, director of NASA's planetary science division, said that the cost of the increase was less than 15 percent of the total cost – $ 2.1 billion plus $ 300 million for its first Martian year of work – and that costs will mainly come from other parts of the overall program of Mars. Fiscal Year 2019 Operating Plan Agency, has not yet been released, will contain details of these expenses.
Other aspects of the mission is going well. A heat shield that will protect the rover when entering the Martian atmosphere had to be rebuilt after the original block is cracked during testing last year. "New construction in accordance with the schedule," he said, and is scheduled for delivery this summer. Mechanical actuators for different parts of the rover, the components that are causing problems for the development of the rover Curiosity, all were taken to the JPL.
A key part of the 2020 Mars mission will cache samples of Martian rocks and soil to return to Earth in future missions. As planning begins for those future missions, Farrell said, that there is some rethinking that mars 2020 will do with these samples.
Previously called for planning the rover to leave samples of the canister on the surface, as it wandered demanding future mission to pick them up with their own rover. Farley said the mission was thinking of returning to their original plans to carry cached patterns on the rover.
"We have a collaboration with a group of people who think about how to actually do it," he said planning for the return and collection of samples. "In particular, as can be mars 2020 best handle the cache sampling? It is better to leave it in one place or in several places, or have samples on board and potentially participate in the handover? "
Farely added that there is no urgency in choosing a method for caching samples. "The beauty of this design with a & # 39 is that all of this does not matter now, because the hardware is capable of doing any combination of everything or put everything on earth, or splitting it," he said. "We should not commit one way or another in the main to the point where we either put them down, or we do not, when we're on Mars."