COVID-19 Delays to Cost NASA $3 Billion

High-resolution illustration of the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope against a starry background. (Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic will cost NASA an estimated $3 billion due to program delays, according to a report from the space agency’s Office of Inspector General.

The report focused on the pandemic’s impact on 30 major programs and project with life-cycle costs of at least $250 million.

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Major Earth Satellite to Track Disasters, Effects of Climate Change

The S-band SAR, one of two kinds of radar on the NISAR mission, arrived at JPL on March 19. The next day, technicians and engineers moved the S-SAR into the airlock to the Spacecraft Assembly Facility’s High Bay 1 clean room. The equipment will be unpacked over several days in the clean room. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Designed to spot potential natural hazards and help researchers measure how melting land ice will affect sea level rise, the NISAR spacecraft marks a big step as it takes shape.

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — An SUV-size Earth satellite that will be equipped with the largest reflector antenna ever launched by NASA is taking shape in the clean room at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. Called NISAR, the joint mission between NASA and the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has big goals: By tracking subtle changes in Earth’s surface, it will spot warning signs of imminent volcanic eruptions, help to monitor groundwater supplies, track the melt rate of ice sheets tied to sea level rise, and observe shifts in the distribution of vegetation around the world. Monitoring these kinds of changes in the planet’s surface over nearly the entire globe hasn’t been done before with the high resolution in space and time that NISAR will deliver.

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The Moon Is Rusting, and Researchers Want to Know Why

The Moon as viewed by NASA’s Mariner 10 in 1973, well before research would find signs of rust on the airless surface. (Credits: NASA/JPL/Northwestern University)

While our Moon is airless, research indicates the presence of hematite, a form of rust that normally requires oxygen and water. That has scientists puzzled.

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — Mars has long been known for its rust. Iron on its surface, combined with water and oxygen from the ancient past, give the Red Planet its hue. But scientists were recently surprised to find evidence that our airless Moon has rust on it as well.

A new paper in Science Advances reviews data from the Indian Space Research Organization’s Chandrayaan-1 orbiter, which  discovered water ice and mapped out a variety of minerals while surveying the Moon’s surface in 2008.

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GAO: NASA Performance on Major Projects Continues to Deteriorate

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released its latest assessment of NASA’s major projects at the end of April. It found that NASA’s performance on its major projects continued to deteriorate on cost and schedule. (Full Report)

Below are key excerpts from the report that provide an overview of where NASA stands on its major projects. Although GAO did not analyze the Artemis program to return astronauts to the moon, the watchdog warned the Trump Administration’s decision to move the landing date up from 2028 to 2024 will put more pressure on the space agency.

“Looking ahead, NASA will continue to face significant cost and schedule risks as it undertakes complex efforts to return to the moon under an aggressive time frame,” the report stated.

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NASA-ISRO SAR Satellite Moving Forward Toward Launch

NASA ISRO synthetic aperture radar satellite (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

An U.S.-Indian synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellite is that rarest of NASA’s projects: it is currently on schedule and under budget.

Whether it stays that way depends upon what happens between now and its planned launch aboard an Indian booster in September 2022.

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