The Norman Transcript

Nation/World

December 5, 2012

NASA sets sights back on Mars

LOS ANGELES — NASA is headed to Mars — again.

The space agency said Tuesday it plans to launch another mega-rover to Mars in 2020 that will be modeled after the wildly popular Curiosity. To keep costs down, engineers will borrow Curiosity’s blueprints, build from spare parts where possible and use proven technology including the novel landing system that delivered the car-size rover inside an ancient crater in August.

The announcement comes as NASA reboots its Mars exploration program during tough fiscal times.

“If we act now, we can build one at the lowest possible price,” NASA sciences chief John Grunsfeld said in an interview.

Like Curiosity, the mission will be managed by the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, but many other details still need to be worked out including where the rover will land and what instruments it will carry to the surface.

While the science goals are still fuzzy, NASA said the rover at the very least should kickstart a campaign to return Martian soil and rocks to Earth — a goal trumpeted by many scientists. The current rover doesn’t have that capability.

Despite Curiosity’s successful landing, the road to the launch pad was bumpy. At $2.5 billion, the project ran over schedule and over budget.

Jim Green, director of NASA’s planetary science division, said the engineering hurdles have been fixed and he expected the new rover to cost less. One independent estimate put the mission at $1.5 billion, though NASA is working on its own cost estimate.

The red planet will see a flurry activity over the next several years. Next year, NASA plans to launch an orbiter to study the atmosphere followed by a relatively low-cost robotic lander in 2016.

For local news and more, subscribe to The Norman Transcript Smart Edition, or our print edition.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Nation/World
  • Rebels release train with bodies from jet

    HRABOVE, Ukraine — Bowing to international pressure, pro-Moscow separatists released a train packed with bodies and handed over the black boxes from the downed Malaysia Airlines plane, four days after it plunged into rebel-held eastern ...

    July 22, 2014

  • Gaza death toll passes 560

    GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — A high-level attempt by the U.N. chief and the U.S. secretary of state to end deadly Israel-Hamas fighting was off to a rough start Monday: Gaza’s Hamas rulers signaled they won’t agree to an unconditional ...

    July 22, 2014

  • Perry sending Guard troops to border

    AUSTIN, Texas — Gov. Rick Perry is deploying up to 1,000 National Guard troops to the Texas-Mexico border over the next month to combat what he said Monday were criminals exploiting a surge of children pouring into the U.S. illegally. ...

    July 22, 2014

  • Better weather to aid in fire fight

    SPOKANE, Wash. — Calmer winds and cooler temperatures were allowing firefighters to go on the offensive Monday against a destructive wildfire that has charred hundreds of square miles of terrain in Washington State and is the largest in ...

    July 22, 2014

  • Gay, transgender workers gain U.S. bias protection

    WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama on Monday ordered employment protection for gay and transgender employees who work for the federal government or for companies holding federal contracts, telling advocates he embraced the “irrefutable ...

    July 22, 2014

  • Senate race zeroes in on metro Atlanta, north Ga.

    FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — Neither Republican running in Georgia’s closely watched Senate race has a natural advantage in metro Atlanta, where the state’s most populous area and a ring of northern exurbs are serving as the key battleground ...

    July 21, 2014

  • How a flood of kids upset immigration debate

    WASHINGTON — The nation’s yearlong deliberation over immigration has taken a head-snapping detour....

    July 21, 2014

  • Kerry makes bid for cease-fire

    WASHINGTON — Secretary of State John Kerry is heading back to the Middle East as the Obama administration attempts to bolster regional efforts to reach a ceasefire and sharpens its criticism of Hamas in its conflict with Israel....

    July 21, 2014

  • U.S. outlines case against Russia on downed plane

    WASHINGTON — Video of a rocket launcher, one surface-to-air missile missing, leaving the likely launch site. Imagery showing the firing. Calls claiming credit for the strike. Recordings said to reveal a cover-up at the crash site....

    July 21, 2014

  • Top school may benefit health

    CHICAGO — Disadvantaged teens may get more than an academic boost by attending top-notch high schools — their health may also benefit, a study suggests. Risky health behavior including binge-drinking, unsafe sex and use of hard drugs was ...

    July 21, 2014