Mars Science Laboratory – A NASA mission to land a rover named curiosity of the Martian surface. The object of the mission is to determine whether Mars could have once supported microbial life, and determine its habitability for humans.
Cape Canaveral – An area of Florida east of Orlando that is home to the Kennedy Space Center and the location of the launches of many spacecraft.
Irradience – describing an object that is shining brightly
IPCC – United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
Uniqueness – NASA Overbudget now
[____] The Mars Science Laboratory is already overbudget, which makes a trade off with Earth science inevitable. Amy Svitak, senior writer for space.com, 1/28/2011, “NASA’s Overbudget Mars Rover in Need of Another Cash Infusion,” http://www.spacenews.com/civil/110128-mars-rover-need-cash.html, NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission needs an $82 million cash infusion to maintain its late November launch date after development of the $2.47 billion rover exhausted program funding reserves last year, according to agency officials. Jim Green, director of NASA’s Planetary Sciences Division in the U.S. space agency’s Science Mission Directorate here, attributed the 3 percent cost increase to problems developing the truck-sized rover’s mobility systems, avionics, radar and drill, as well as delays in completing the rover’s Sample Analysis at Mars instrument suite, which is designed to sniff the surrounding air for carbon-containing compounds. “Our problem right now is MSL,” Green told members of the NASA Advisory Council’s planetary sciences subcommittee during a public meeting here Jan. 26. “It has virtually no unencumbered reserves left.” With MSL slated for delivery to Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in June, Green said it is imperative that the program’s funding reserves be restored in order to gird against any further development or test problems that could cause the rover to miss an unforgiving three-week launch window that opens Nov. 25. MSL’s price tag has grown by more than $660 million since 2008, according to a February 2010 audit by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, which attributed much of the increase to a 68 percent rise in hardware development costs since the program’s 2003 inception. Although NASA had planned to launch MSL in 2009, technical setbacks forced the agency to postpone the mission two years, the minimal delay for any Mars-bound craft missing its launch window.
[____] NASA’s pension obligations to shuttle workers mean that it will have to take funds from other areas. New York Times, 6/15/2011, “Shuttle’s End Leaves NASA a Pension Bill” http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/15/business/15nasa.html?_r=2 The pension fund now has about half the amount needed. The president’s budget proposal for the 2012 fiscal year requests $547.9 million for NASA to provide the rest. That is nearly 3 percent of the agency’s total budget and just about what the Science Mission Directorate at NASA spent last year on all grants and subsidies to study climate change, planetary systems and the origins of life in the universe. “We know that it’s NASA’s obligation to fund this, and NASA will do so,” said a spokesman for the space agency, Michael Curie. Other federal agencies have made promises to pay contractors’ annual pension costs — the Energy Department, for example, for companies that run nuclear sites — and some government auditors have been warning for years that investment oversight was lacking and that the potential costs had been underestimated. This appears to be the first time, though, that a company’s main contract has expired and an agency has had to bear the cost of terminating its plans. Although NASA was reimbursing the contractor for the annual pension contributions, it had no say over how the money was invested. United Space Alliance put most of the money into stocks. The backstop will be unusually costly because of market conditions. While United Space Alliance has made its required contributions every year, the fund lost nearly $200 million in the market turmoil of 2008 and 2009. When interest rates are very low, as they have been, the cost of the promises rises rapidly as well, creating a bigger shortfall. The cash infusion is also being readied at a time when some members of Congress are demanding cuts in spending and threatening to block anything that could be construed as a taxpayer bailout. “It’s unfortunate that it’s coming in this fiscal environment,” said Bill Hill, NASA assistant associate administrator for the space shuttle. He said that he hoped Congress would appropriate the money before the fiscal year ended on Sept. 30. If not, he said, NASA will have to divert funds from space-related activities.