NASA officials said Sunday that a planned mission to Mars will be delayed by one day in order to sort out complications related to a principle battery operating system.
The delay will “allow time for the team to remove and replace a flight termination system battery,” NASA said in a statement.
The launch is now scheduled for 10:02 am on November 26 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. The launch window remains open for one hour and 43 minutes, NASA officials said. NASA will launch the rover — nicknamed Curiosity — using an Atlas V rocket at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
NASA has until December 18 to launch the new rover toward Mars and still make the current flight window to the Red Planet. Officials expressed confidence that they will launch the rover within the window of opportunity.
The delay comes as NASA released a number of details on how the seven-foot tall rover will operate on the Red Planet. NASA officials say the rover weighs over a ton, and it is expected to carry more than ten times the amount of scientific equipment sent with the Spirit and Opportunity rovers launched in 2004. The mission cost: $2.5 billion. The mission is expected to focus on searching for evidence of organic compounds and water.
An instrument on NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity can check for any water that might be bound into shallow underground minerals along the rover’s path.
“If we conclude that there is something unusual in the subsurface at a particular spot, we could suggest more analysis of the spot using the capabilities of other instruments,” said this instrument’s principal investigator, Igor Mitrofanov of the Space Research Institute, Russia.
The Mars Science Laboratory mission will use its set of ten instruments to investigate whether the area selected for the mission has ever offered environmental conditions favorable for life and favorable for preserving evidence about life.
The rover will travel to Mars, where it will land in Gale crater, which is thought to be about three and a half billion years old and more than 95 miles in diameter. The mission to Mars will take over eight months, NASA officials say, and the rover is expected to arrive on the planet on August 6, 2012.
The Mars rover is reportedly a major upgrade from a pair of rovers launched to the planet in 2004. A number of scientists working on the project have said it represents a “dream machine,” due, in part, to the number of instruments contained within the confines of the rover.
“This is a Mars scientist’s dream machine,” said Ashwin Vasavada, a project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “This rover is not only the most technically capable rover ever sent to another planet, but it’s actually the most capable scientific explorer we’ve ever sent out.”