Spaceflight Now: Breaking News

NASA cancels miniature rover for asteroid mission
Posted: November 4, 2000

Artist's impression of MUSES-C orbiter with rover on asteroid surface. Photo: ISAS
NASA has canceled development of a miniature rover, which would have been part of the U.S. contribution to a Japanese mission to an asteroid. The primary reasons for the cancellation were rising costs and weight.

NASA's Acting Director of Solar System Exploration, Dr. Jay Bergstralh, yesterday ordered the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA, to stop work on the MUSES-CN nano-rover and instead transfer the material and resources already developed to be available for possible use in other projects.

"The decision to cancel the MUSES-CN nano-rover was difficult and distasteful; it certainly represents lost opportunities," added Dr. Bergstralh. "In the end, however, there was no viable alternative."

Bergstralh said NASA will hold discussions with the Japanese Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS) to consider alternative cooperation in the Mu Space Engineering Spacecraft-C (MUSES-C) mission, the first asteroid sample- return mission, scheduled for launch in late 2002. The designation "MUSES-CN" referred specifically to the NASA nano-rover.

Rover mockup. Photo: NASA/JPL
The MUSES-CN rover was originally expected to cost $21 million, but had recently experienced significant cost growth, resulting in a management and cost review at NASA Headquarters.

The rover was small enough to fit in the palm of a hand and weighed a little more than 2 1/2 lbs. The rover would have been equipped with visible-light and infrared cameras and could be modified for use on other places such as comets, moons of other planets and on Mars.