Author Topic: NASA/ESA - Mars Sample Return mission  (Read 210287 times)

Offline whitelancer64

Re: NASA/ESA - Mars Sample Return mission
« Reply #460 on: 06/12/2023 10:55 pm »
This slide included a video clip at the bottom left. What that showed was a test of the ejection mechanism for the Mars Ascent Vehicle. That metallic object you see at the top of the image was tossed into the air by a mechanism. It simulated the MAV.

A video clip of that test is also here:

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Online FutureSpaceTourist

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Re: NASA/ESA - Mars Sample Return mission
« Reply #461 on: 06/23/2023 04:46 pm »
twitter.com/sciguyspace/status/1672276758312398848

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The cost of NASA's Mars Sample Return mission has nearly doubled. The new price is about $10 billion. This will probably force a major re-think.

https://arstechnica.com/space/2023/06/the-mars-sample-return-mission-is-starting-to-give-nasa-sticker-shock/

https://twitter.com/sciguyspace/status/1672277377119043584

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Comment from @Dr_ThomasZ, who worried a lot about MSR costs in his final months at NASA.

"If the answer is this is not the decade to do it, my heart breaks because I put so much effort into it," he said. "But it is better to not do it than to torch the whole science community.

Offline Athelstane

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Re: NASA/ESA - Mars Sample Return mission
« Reply #462 on: 06/23/2023 08:29 pm »
Some interesting discussion on this following Eric's tweet. 1) Phil Metzger suggests, "Why not try a commercial solution?" Casey Dreier says, "That's just not feasible with something like Mars Sample Return." 2) Jeff Foust and Marcia Smith note that this very question is being debated, animatedly, by NASA's Planetary Science Advisory Committee today.

https://twitter.com/DrPhiltill/status/1672287320525897730
https://twitter.com/CaseyDreier/status/1672295102612635648

https://twitter.com/SpcPlcyOnline/status/1672292319075155977

We'll know more later this summer, but if the cost estimate has really exploded like this, I think NASA faces a very tough set of decisions before long.
« Last Edit: 06/23/2023 08:30 pm by Athelstane »

Online Robotbeat

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Re: NASA/ESA - Mars Sample Return mission
« Reply #463 on: 06/23/2023 09:38 pm »
Man, I don’t know what happened to Casey but he seems to have become incredibly cynical about anything not built by traditional defense contractors. There are two CLPS landers only months away from launching. Impulse, headed by one of the greatest rocket engineers of all time, has a literal Mars lander slated for launch in 3 years. SpaceX has more vertical landing experience for space vehicles on Earth than everyone else in the world combined and Starship is on the critical path for Artemis 3 and 4. But he dismisses all of this as if it were fantasy and absurd to even suggest a similar model for Mars, even if there’s not enough money for MSR to even go forward at all.
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Offline Don2

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Re: NASA/ESA - Mars Sample Return mission
« Reply #464 on: 06/24/2023 03:58 am »
This sounds bad. When a program has a major cost blow out then one possible cause is that a key technology simply doesn't work. The program may have discovered that MSR isn't possible with existing technology.

For example, 3.6 tons makes it too heavy for the existing supersonic parachute designs. Is it possible to develop a bigger one and and how long will that take? Supersonic parachute design seems to be poorly understood. It make take a lot of slow, costly trial and error to find one that will work.

The article quotes a diameter for the lander of 7.2m, which is far too big for existing fairings. Maybe it will fit inside a 5m fairing when the panels are folded, but it is worth asking just how close they are to the limits imposed by the largest aeroshell that will fit on an existing rocket.

The article does not state the root cause of the troubles. I wonder if the MAV mass and cost have grown? There is a lot of fuss about hypersonic weapons at present and the boosters for those may come from the same solid rocket motor suppliers which NASA needs for MAV.

A commercial sample return lander is a bad idea. The market for mars sample return landers is too small to attract private sector investment. The technology is complex and difficult, and only JPL and maybe Lockheed Martin have the expertise to handle it. What brings costs down is competition between providers, not putting 'commercial' in the program title. Lockheed Martin won't want to compete hard against JPL because of their existing business relationships.

SpaceX needs to concentrate on getting Starship working, then getting Starlink working to pay for Starship and then delivering HLS. SpaceX is a wonderful company, but they have never operated beyond geostationary orbit. Their approach of crashing prototypes until they work will not work for returning valuable Mars samples. None of the other private space companies have demonstrated the engineering competence to pull off a large Mars lander.
« Last Edit: 06/24/2023 04:02 am by Don2 »

Online Robotbeat

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Re: NASA/ESA - Mars Sample Return mission
« Reply #465 on: 06/24/2023 04:17 am »
This sounds bad. When a program has a major cost blow out then one possible cause is that a key technology simply doesn't work. The program may have discovered that MSR isn't possible with existing technology. ...
Nope.
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A commercial sample return lander is a bad idea. The market for mars sample return landers is too small to attract private sector investment. ...
There's no reason why Mars would somehow be far, far different than the Moon in this regard. There is, in fact, already a privately funded lander mission to Mars slated for 2026 by Impulse (from the cofounder of SpaceX, Mueller). The multiple CLPS landers are a decent platform as well.

And, of course, there's SpaceX. SpaceX is developing Starship HLS for just $3B, and that includes two missions, one of which is crewed. It actually takes less propulsive delta-v to get to the surface of Mars than the surface of the Moon, let alone return to NHRO. In fact, I think for the same number of launches for Artemis 3, you could do Starship to Mars *and back* (possibly by meeting up with a depot in LMO, but that's not required). And if they want to just use the normal ESA return spacecraft (i.e. for planetary protection reasons or whatever), it'd be even easier as it only has to get back to LMO. Most of the tech already paid for with Artemis, you just need to add TPS and longer duration cryo. And with cleverness and some more launches (like the full 16 upper end for Artemis), you wouldn't even need TPS, just slower aerobraking (which needs no TPS) and then propulsive landing. By the same token, Blue Origin's Blue Moon vehicle could be modified do it, and it'll already have to solve long duration zero boiloff for hydrogen.

Just like with Artemis, a commercial lander is a far better idea than just cancelling the whole program entirely. If you can't afford the full $10 billion, just do $1 billion for the basic capsule design (with traditional aerospace programs) and allow $3 billion for a commercial lander. You'll have multiple takers.

It's inefficient, but you can actually use the CLPS landers (perhaps with a slight thrust increase) as landers for Mars, if you use enough propellant or use a crasher stage. You don't even need a heatshield or parachute, you can do the descent propulsively. It costs mass to orbit, but mass to orbit is cheap these days. For instance, the Nova-C lander has to provide about 2.5km/s or so of delta-v to land on the Moon from its injection orbit. To land on Mars fully propulsively starting at low Mars orbit (because you can aerobrake down to LMO from a captured orbit) requires about 3.6km/s (if landed equatorially) or less. So to put the 1900kg Nova-C lander on the surface of Mars (assuming the thrust is enough) requires another 1.1km/s of delta-v, which could be provided by drop tanks or by a small transfer/crasher stage (which could, for instance, just be a stripped down version of Nova-C), plus a 0.9km/s Mars insertion burn, and maybe TMI requiring another 0.6km/s delta-v greater than TLI.

So it doesn't seem that tough. Maybe launch two Nova-Cs on a reusable Falcon Heavy or something, one acting as the transfer stage, and it could land its CLPS payload on Mars even without a heatshield, assuming the propellant can remain stable for long enough (should be doable in deep space for methalox). And Nova-C is only $77 million per mission, including launch. Double that to account for these things, and it's pretty dang affordable still.

Same sort of idea could work for the other CLPS landers, including Peregrine/Vulcan. If any of them work, they could be upgraded for Mars. So Mars Sample Return doesn't have to be the sole market for the commercial landers, they can leverage CLPS and Artemis.

And in fact, that sort of idea has always been NASA's plan. The plan has long been that the human lunar lander would be upgraded for Mars, that was true for Constellation with Altair as well.
« Last Edit: 06/24/2023 04:48 am by Robotbeat »
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Offline deltaV

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Re: NASA/ESA - Mars Sample Return mission
« Reply #466 on: 06/24/2023 06:10 am »
SpaceX is a wonderful company, but they have never operated beyond geostationary orbit. Their approach of crashing prototypes until they work will not work for returning valuable Mars samples.

Here's one way to protect the precious samples even better than cost plus would. Hold a competition to award two fixed-price contracts to return 10 kg of any Mars dirt that's lying around with a contract option to return the real samples in a following mission. Whichever contractor returns the dirt first or best would get their option exercised. This delays things by a couple years but that's OK, Mars isn't urgent.

Offline geza

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Re: NASA/ESA - Mars Sample Return mission
« Reply #467 on: 06/24/2023 06:21 am »
SpaceX is a wonderful company, but they have never operated beyond geostationary orbit. Their approach of crashing prototypes until they work will not work for returning valuable Mars samples.

Here's one way to protect the precious samples even better than cost plus would. Hold a competition to award two fixed-price contracts to return 10 kg of any Mars dirt that's lying around with a contract option to return the real samples in a following mission. Whichever contractor returns the dirt first or best would get their option exercised. This delays things by a couple years but that's OK, Mars isn't urgent.

Of course, they want to return the scientifically valuable samples will have collected by Curiosity on an already high cost, instead of "any Mars dirt that's lying around".

Offline Don2

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Re: NASA/ESA - Mars Sample Return mission
« Reply #468 on: 06/24/2023 09:05 am »
There's a huge difference between a one way mission and a two way mission. Sample return is far more difficult than a small lander with minimal capability.

here's no reason why Mars would somehow be far, far different than the Moon in this regard. There is, in fact, already a privately funded lander mission to Mars slated for 2026 by Impulse (from the cofounder of SpaceX, Mueller). The multiple CLPS landers are a decent platform as well.

Mars is a much longer trip and you have to deal with atmospheric entry at the other end.

And what has CLPS delivered so far? Absolutely nothing except the Masten failure. The Israeli and the Japanese  landers both crashed. So the commercial approach has delivered three failures and no successes.

The Impulse lander you mention is nothing more than a power point at the stage. And all Starship has delivered is a two minute flight ending in failure after endless delays.

The commercial resupply contracts for Space Station worked because there was a sizable market that was open ended. The market was large enough for multiple competitors. Commercial resupply broke the oligopoly that shuttle contractors and the Russians had on station resupply. Development of the capability didn't require a lot of new technology. The contracts went to organizations which had a substantial business track record and which had developed their own launch vehicles. And Elon Musk's passion for space combined with his business and technical skills drove SpaceX innovation and excellence.

A commercial mars sample return contract would be very different. It is a technically challenging development with no market beyond the first mission. It is not big enough for competition. The only organizations with demonstrated capabilities to land on Mars are JPL and Lockmart. Elon is busy with Starship, Starlink, HLS, Tesla and Twitter and has never shown any real interest in sample return.

Offline Zed_Noir

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Re: NASA/ESA - Mars Sample Return mission
« Reply #469 on: 06/24/2023 05:36 pm »
.....For example, 3.6 tons makes it too heavy for the existing supersonic parachute designs. Is it possible to develop a bigger one and and how long will that take? Supersonic parachute design seems to be poorly understood. It make take a lot of slow, costly trial and error to find one that will work.
AIUI the heaviest lander minus the aeroshells & parachutes with the legacy Viking era Mars EDL concept is about a metric ton before it starts getting impractical. The main parachute gets too large even with supplemental retro rocket packs in the parachute rigging. Then how to test the over-sized parachute with environmental conditions similar to those encounter during Mars EDL.

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.....The article quotes a diameter for the lander of 7.2m, which is far too big for existing fairings. Maybe it will fit inside a 5m fairing when the panels are folded, but it is worth asking just how close they are to the limits imposed by the largest aeroshell that will fit on an existing rocket.
It might fitted inside the largest EELV payload envelope, however it will come at a high cost and complexity. The only existing launcher that can send 3.6 tonnes to Mars is the Falcon Heavy. Presuming the 3.6 number is minus the parachutes, aeroshells and cruise stage. The SLS currently only have a proposed payload fairing not needed by any Artemis payloads. Plus the Vulcan Centaur will fly no earlier than Q4 2023 and the New Glenn is still a paper rocket.

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....SpaceX needs to concentrate on getting Starship working, then getting Starlink working to pay for Starship and then delivering HLS. SpaceX is a wonderful company, but they have never operated beyond geostationary orbit. Their approach of crashing prototypes until they work will not work for returning valuable Mars samples. None of the other private space companies have demonstrated the engineering competence to pull off a large Mars lander.
Will point out that no one has done a Mars lander/rover that is more than 1 tonne. Crashing prototypes until they work isn't that bad an idea. Since you can only return samples with a working prototype. Presumably Mars landing & sample return capabilities will be demonstrated before actual sample return. There is no guarantee that the current Mars sample return concept will work during the initial and final attempt.


Offline VSECOTSPE

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Re: NASA/ESA - Mars Sample Return mission
« Reply #470 on: 06/25/2023 04:09 am »

The lander should not be an in-house JPL build.
MSR is not a research mission in the main.  It’s a transport system.  That’s not what university-managed FFRDCs are designed for. That kind of capability should be contracted out.  Even if contracted on a traditional cost-plus basis, there’s no reason to believe that FFRDC researchers would do better or be more efficient than industry engineers on this kind of development.

The in-house JPL assumption also eliminates much-needed competition in solving the hard EDL problem of how to deliver multiple tons to the Martian surface.  Nine companies competed for the Apollo Lunar Module landers, aircraft manufacturer Grumman won, and those landers became the most reliable element of the Apollo architecture. Picking the best-of-breed solution from among a diversity of industry proposals putting their best foot forward is the proven way to develop difficult capabilities like this, not assigning it in the absence of any competition or review of alternatives to a government or university lab that already has too much work on its plate.

MSR can leverage commercial capabilities without there ever being another customer for Mars samples.  ISS is the only customer for cargo Dragon, but it still leverages the launcher (F9) with largest and most diverse existing customer base.  Artemis only has two Lunar Starship landings on the books, but it is still leveraging the enormous investment that SpaceX’s investors are putting into Starship for the sake of StarLink revenue.  CLPS “shots on goal” is the wrong approach for MSR, but we have successful models in commercial cargo and crew that can be modified and applied here.

MSR ain’t launching in 2028, and probably not for the better part of a decade.  In the meantime, given the costs and incompetence on display at JPL, the lander is obviously in desperate need of alternatives and competition.  Probably the MAV, too.  Go out with an RFI.  See what’s out there.  Find some Grummans.  See if Starship could be leveraged for this.  See if Blue wants to play with New Shepherd or Jarvis derivatives.  See if the traditional military contractors can do better.  See how far two or three solutions could be carried for a few billion.  Somewhere in that mix will be solutions that are far better than blowing $10 billion on JPL for what is essentially a truck down and up from Mars.  Fashion a follow-on procurement accordingly.

The other thing that should be considered is going back to the Planetary Decadal and inquiring about MSR without sample return.  It’s an oxymoron, but if getting big payloads down to the surface of Mars and samples back up and to Earth turns out to be technical- or cost-prohibitive, then an in-situ approach to MSR that pushes on the instrumentation and miniaturization technologies should at least be looked at.  It will never substitute for taking apart samples atom by atom in Earth-based labs, but it may be much better than nothing or wrecking the rest of the planetary portfolio for a decade.  Photons are easier to move than samples, and sometimes the path of least resistance is the best possible one.  The Decadal may say “when we wrote ‘sample return’ we meant it”, but if things are really this bad this early, the question should at least be posed to them.
« Last Edit: 06/25/2023 01:40 pm by VSECOTSPE »

Offline raketa

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Re: NASA/ESA - Mars Sample Return mission
« Reply #471 on: 06/25/2023 05:57 am »
JPL is a government-dependent agency that requires programs to be funded at the level of administrative staff carryover from year to year.

Offline Don2

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Re: NASA/ESA - Mars Sample Return mission
« Reply #472 on: 06/25/2023 09:23 pm »
I think JPL has a natural monopoly in the mars lander business. Any project which doesn't use their accumulated expertise is going to cost more and be less likely to work. It is a similar situation to Newport News Shipbuilding for large aircraft carriers and Electric Boat for nuclear submarines. All those organizations have built expertise over time in technically complex fields which give them huge advantage over new entrants to the business.

The Grumman built Apollo lunar lander is an interesting example. Nobody had built anything remotely similar, so there was no reason to pick another contractor over Grumman.  Nobody then had the kind of experience in rocket landers that JPL now has in Mars landers. Grumman had been building airplanes for the Navy since 1931, so they had a long and successful track record of delivering high technology aerospace products to the government. That made them very different to Astrobotic, Intuitive Machines, Dynetics and Blue Origin who have never even flown a cubesat to low Earth Orbit.

Because a lot of things on Apollo had no technical heritage to drawn on the whole project cost a huge amount of money. The space science program does not have those kind of resources.

I don't think there is a sensible alternative to a JPL built lander. I don't associate JPL with expertise in solid rockets or launchers so maybe the Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV) should be built elsewhere.

What may have happened is that the lander may have become too heavy to use the Viking heritage EDL systems. Viking was extremely expensive to develop. I think it cost about $6 billion in today's money. An all new EDL system will be similarly expensive.

NASA might consider cancelling the current MSR program, and starting a program of technology development to prepare for a future effort. They could continue the MAV development, since any future lander would have to be built around that. It would help a lot if they could reduce the mass of the MAV.

Offline deltaV

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Re: NASA/ESA - Mars Sample Return mission
« Reply #473 on: 06/26/2023 03:11 am »
Of course, they want to return the scientifically valuable samples will have collected by Curiosity on an already high cost, instead of "any Mars dirt that's lying around".

Returning dirt lying around would just be the warm-up test to prove everything works. After the system is demonstrated to work another mission would return the actual samples (at a price that was specified in the initial proposal). Doing three missions (two contractor warmups and one actual mission) does increase costs but I bet it would still be cheaper than the $15+B that cost plus will probably take once the cost overruns still to come are included. The reliability should be higher than cost plus too.

An alternative would be to give the contractors a choice between doing a warm-up mission returning dirt lying around or paying a roughly $8B deposit before approaching the samples that would be refunded upon successful return of the samples to Earth. Companies like SpaceX would presumably choose the warm-up mission option. Companies like Lockheed Martin might choose the deposit option if they actually believe they're as reliable as they claim.

A commercial mars sample return contract would be very different. It is a technically challenging development with no market beyond the first mission. It is not big enough for competition. The only organizations with demonstrated capabilities to land on Mars are JPL and Lockmart. Elon is busy with Starship, Starlink, HLS, Tesla and Twitter and has never shown any real interest in sample return.

SpaceX probably has most of the hardware they'd need for sample return already under development since they need to return people and Starships from Mars to make their colonization plans work. They could probably do sample return using Starships and a rover to load the samples into Starship. To reduce risks they would hopefully use a propellant depot, maybe in Martian orbit, instead of their long-term plans of making propellants on the surface of Mars. I bet the biggest question mark is what exactly the planetary protection requirements are and how much those would require SpaceX to change their plans.

Getting companies other than SpaceX to be interested in investing capital to help with commercial-style sample return may be harder. If SpaceX is the only one to make a reasonable bid then contracting with just SpaceX would be not ideal but OK.

Offline VSECOTSPE

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Re: NASA/ESA - Mars Sample Return mission
« Reply #474 on: 06/26/2023 05:50 am »
I think JPL has a natural monopoly in the mars lander business. Any project which doesn't use their accumulated expertise is going to cost more and be less likely to work.

This was true in the Mariner/Viking days, but there is nothing special about JPL in this respect anymore.  (JPL is special for other reasons, but not this.)  LaRC really does the entry for these Mars missions, and the critical, high-speed, high-precision guidance technologies for the descent have been widely spread through the military and aerospace industry since the 90s.  And JPL can screw them up just like any contractor.  See Mars Polar Lander and Deep Space 2.

To the extent JPL has an apparent monopoly because no one is thinking critically about sourcing, the technical incompetence (wrong lander leg length, really?) and exorbitant costs on display at JPL in the Berger article are arguments to eliminate that monopoly and pursue other sources.

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It is a similar situation to Newport News Shipbuilding for large aircraft carriers and Electric Boat for nuclear submarines. All those organizations have built expertise over time in technically complex fields which give them huge advantage over new entrants to the business.

And the USN is badly losing the shipbuilding race with China for lack of affordable capacity and boneheaded management of the contractor base.  This is also not a good argument for monopolization.

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Grumman had been building airplanes for the Navy since 1931, so they had a long and successful track record of delivering high technology aerospace products to the government. That made them very different to Astrobotic, Intuitive Machines, Dynetics and Blue Origin who have never even flown a cubesat to low Earth Orbit.

Astrobotic built the terrain relative navigation and hazard avoidance systems for NASA’s VIPER lunar rover.

Blue Origin builds the engines for the Vulcan launch vehicle that is replacing Atlas V and Delta IV in the most critical and demanding national security launch roles.

Dynetics has something approaching 20 smallsats under its belt and does all kinds of high-precision munitions, hypersonics,  and space-based ISR and domain awareness work for the military.

Intuitive Machines developed the natural feature tracking system on OSIRIS-Rex for the Bennu precision landing.

It’s just grossly false to claim that these companies don’t have a track record with “high technology aerospace products to the government” or that they’ve “never even flown a cubesat to low-Earth orbit.”

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Because a lot of things on Apollo had no technical heritage to drawn on the whole project cost a huge amount of money. The space science program does not have those kind of resources.

Planetary Science doesn’t have the resources to blow $10B on a Mars transport system, which is all that MSR is.  But like the Artemis Program has done with the crew landers for the Artemis III and IV missions, Planetary Science can afford to take a $1-2B flier to leverage the multiple billions SpaceX is putting into Starship, which is specifically designed to land on Mars and return.  There may well be details that make a Starship derivative unworkable for MSR, but it would be dumb as dirt not to pursue the obvious synergy.

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I don't think there is a sensible alternative to a JPL built lander.

No offense, but you don’t even know what these companies do.  NASA needs to put out an RFI, have some discussions with industry, and find out — not assume poorly out of ignorance.

Online vjkane

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Re: NASA/ESA - Mars Sample Return mission
« Reply #475 on: 06/26/2023 05:57 am »
To the extent JPL has an apparent monopoly because no one is thinking critically about sourcing, the technical incompetence (wrong lander leg length, really?) and exorbitant costs on display at JPL in the Berger article are arguments to eliminate that monopoly and pursue other sources.

Quote
Maybe Berger doesn't have all the information or has biases.
Planning an entire major development program on the information in a single article is audacious.

Online vjkane

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Re: NASA/ESA - Mars Sample Return mission
« Reply #476 on: 06/26/2023 06:00 am »
To the extent JPL has an apparent monopoly because no one is thinking critically about sourcing, the technical incompetence (wrong lander leg length, really?) and exorbitant costs on display at JPL in the Berger article are arguments to eliminate that monopoly and pursue other sources.

Maybe Berger doesn't have all the information or has biases.
Planning an entire major development program on the information in a single article is audacious.

Online ccdengr

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Re: NASA/ESA - Mars Sample Return mission
« Reply #477 on: 06/26/2023 06:42 am »
And JPL can screw them up just like any contractor.  See Mars Polar Lander and Deep Space 2.
DS2 was JPL's screwup, but MPL was 100% designed and built by Lockheed Martin (the same design was used successfully for Phoenix and Insight.)

Offline VSECOTSPE

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Re: NASA/ESA - Mars Sample Return mission
« Reply #478 on: 06/26/2023 01:18 pm »
Planning an entire major development program on the information in a single article is audacious.

Where did I “plan an entire major development program”?  I wrote that NASA Planetary Science needs to go out with an RFI, have some discussions with industry, and find out if the agency can create some options for itself, instead of assuming it is in a suicide pact with JPL over MSR out of ignorance on the state of the industry.  Only after that would it be time to plan a new development program.

Offline VSECOTSPE

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Re: NASA/ESA - Mars Sample Return mission
« Reply #479 on: 06/26/2023 01:22 pm »
DS2 was JPL's screwup, but MPL was 100% designed and built by Lockheed Martin (the same design was used successfully for Phoenix and Insight.)

I was covering NASA Space Science at OMB during MPL.  These missions always have center and industry contributions and responsibilities.  Although vibrations in the stowed landing legs was identified as the most likely cause, the failure review board could not positively identify a single cause from among a handful or two of culprits.  This was one of the reasons why we funded two MERS in the wake of MPL’s failure.

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