Mars won’t wait. Oh yes it will…. it’ll wait 2 years

I just heard that JPL and NASA announced that the launch date for Mars Science Lab (MSL) slipped from fall, 2009 to 2011. I’ll look for all the links and post them later. I’m buried deep in work today.

My beau, Doc M, has been working in the group that’s built the radar that’s part of the MSL’s landing system. They’ve been in all-out gonzo git er done mode to make the “ship this puppy to Florida for launch prep” deadline of January.

When we discuss plans for time off or trips, we come back to our one watchword of plantetary orbital mechanics: Mars Won’t Wait. It’s our shorthand for “not now, but later.” Launches are timed every two+ years when Earth and Mars draw close in their orbits. If you’re one month late for launch, you’re 26 months late for launch–there’s just no getting around it. MSL is larger than any previous spacecraft (size of a Cooper Mini), the skycrane landing system has never been done before. Space is hard. Things are complex. And all systems were not GO (or on track to be GO). Hence today’s call to delay the launch by 2 years.

(insider scuttlebutt that’s probably safe to say now: Today’s news is no big surprise to those who’ve been at work on the mission. There’ve been “launch slip” rumors swirling around this fall. So when there was word of an all hands meeting for this morning, it wasn’t too hard to guess the reason.)

3 responses to “Mars won’t wait. Oh yes it will…. it’ll wait 2 years”

  1. Mary Kathleen O'Looney

    This means you can go on a little fun trip with Doc M, right? R & R!

  2. Susan A. Kitchens

    Well, we did get away during the Thanksgiving weekend, spending money on/saving time with plane flights, timed so as not to cut into workdays. And returned in time for weekend work. But we’ve been talking about an oft-wished visit to see the VLA — the Very Large Array of radio telescopes in S. New Mexico. These low gas prices won’t last forever, and it’s beginning to smell like a road trip!

    But for tonight, comfort food: Mars Slip Mac n Cheese

  3. Cathy M

    I’ve got JPL family connections, too. It’ll be interesting to see what develops next. It takes money to keep a project going, and keeping it going two years longer than the original plan will cost a lot of money. These are not the good kind of interesting times, I’m afraid.