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Clever Interpretation Of “Non-Essential” Saves MAVEN Mars Mission

Clever Interpretation Of “Non-Essential” Saves MAVEN Mars Mission
Steven
  • On October 4, 2013
  • http://www.winextra.com

Right now the American government is undergoing a forced shutdown of all non-essential work being done by their many agencies, sending many workers home on furlough. This includes 97 percent of NASA’s employees but some interesting interpretation of the furlough’s “non-essential” clause.

One NASA mission that has escaped the non-essential hatchet is the MAVEN project which was under a real time crunch; which if the launch window was missed would see the mission set back to 2016; and even then conditions would be less than optimal.

Thankfully for the mission the project head, Bruce Jakosky did some very careful and interpretive reading of the requirements around government furloughs and non-essential, and saved the MAVEN mission. As of right now the mission is slated to go ahead as planned.

As Jakosky wrote in an email to Popular Science:

A delay in the launch date by more than a week past the end of the nominal launch period, or a delay of launch to 2016, would require additional fuel to get into orbit. This would have precluded having sufficient fuel for MAVEN to carry out its science mission and to operate as a relay for any significant time. Our nominal launch period runs from 18 November through 7 December, and we can launch as late as about 15 December without a significant impact on our combined science and relay activities. There is no NASA relay orbiter planned post-MAVEN.

Although the exception for MAVEN is not being done for science reasons, the science of MAVEN clearly will benefit from this action. Launching in 2013 allows us to observe at a good time in the eleven-year solar cycle.

We have already restarted spacecraft processing at Kennedy Space Center, working toward being ready to launch on Nov. 18. We will continue to work over the next couple of days to identify any changes in our schedule or plans that are necessary to stay on track.

Nicely played Mr. Jakosky, nicely played.

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