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NASA Seeks Proposals for Mars 2020 Science Investigations

NASA aims to build the Mars 2020 rover out of spare parts from Curiosity (above). Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS image

WASHINGTON — NASA is officially seeking proposals for science investigations to be undertaken by a clone of the Curiosity rover now set to launch to Mars by August 2020.

In a solicitation released Sept. 24, NASA said it would carve about $100 million out of its Science Mission Directorate budget for development of hardware, software and concepts for the Mars 2020 rover’s science investigations. Another $60 million has been earmarked for science operations on the martian surface. 

NASA’s Human Spaceflight and Space Technology directorates will also kick in a combined $30 million, including the cost of surface operations, for investigations into technology development that could help NASA to one day send human explorers to the red planet.

Interested parties should submit a notice of intent to propose to NASA by Oct. 15. Final proposals are due Dec. 23, according to the solicitation. 

NASA plans to build the Mars 2020 rover out of spare parts from Curiosity, the car-size rover that touched down on the martian surface in August 2012. The agency has said the new rover should cost about $1.5 billion, or nearly $1 billion less than Curiosity itself.

 

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Article Comments

$100 million is insufficient for science instrument development on a psudo-flagship mission. In 2004 NASA made the same mistake on the MSL Solicitation offing 75 million. If you apply an inflationary filter to today's figure (assuming 3% inflation/yr), the Mars 2020 Rover instrument development will have the same purchasing power as MSL (~$75 million). Unfortunately development costs on that Rover ran into complications and cost much more than anticipated. NASA went back to congress and asked for more money... To ensure that they got it, the rover was loaded down with parts from a great many congressional districts. Unfortunately today we live in a post earmark world, have a frugal congress (when it comes to R&D spending), and a President who is a little too busy to worry much about the Mars program. To me this implies that NASA should either adopt a Faster, Better, Cheaper inspired approach to unmanned exploration or get more realistic about development costs! They are obviously not going to be able to produce very many novel science instruments on a $100 million dollar budget. NASA should apply the lessons learned on MSL and make an honest, realistic cost assessment for its Mars 2020 mission. While it is true that Congress doesn't like sticker shock, they hate being lied to even more.

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