Cost for Mars 2020 rover up 15%

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Because of cost overruns in building three instruments for the Mars 2020 rover, its total budget will rise by 15%, forcing NASA to trim budgets elsewhere in its planetary program.

There are small efficiencies to be gained internally in Mars 2020, Glaze says, which, like its predecessor Curiosity, is being developed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. Some work can be postponed, some timelines tightened; the end of the Opportunity rover, which expired late last year on Mars, will help. But it is expected the costs will largely be borne by trims to the operations of existing Mars missions and funds the agency sets aside for future missions, including the return of the rock samples that Mars 2020 will collect. “We tried to spread it so no one is feeling all of the pain,” Glaze says.

For a government program costing almost $2.5 billion, this overage is remarkably small. What is more significant is that the rover appears on schedule for launch in July 2020.


One comment

  • Edward

    From the article: “some scientists felt it was unfair that ICEMAG ended while the Mars 2020 instruments continue. But it’s not a fair comparison, Glaze says. Mars 2020 is so far along in its development that descoping an instrument would save barely any money.

    Except that ICEMAG’s overrun is $30 million, and the three Mars 2020 overruns average $120 million each. Descoping an instrument could save more than four times as much as is being saved on ICEMAG. The comparison is that descoping ICEMAG barely saves any money.

    A real savings could be achieved by using a rocket other than SLS for Europa Clipper, the probe that ICEMAG would have flown on. There is no urgency for exploring Europa, and launching on another rocket would require one or two slingshot maneuvers at Venus. As we see, there are other probes that are already suffering. Saving money on the rocket could reduce that suffering and bring us more information for the money spent.

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