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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.