Space Exploration:

NASA's Deep Space Missions Are Experiencing Long Delays

NSIAD-88-128BR: Published: May 27, 1988. Publicly Released: Jun 6, 1988.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) Galileo mission to Jupiter, Ulysses mission to the sun, Magellan mission to Venus, and Mars Observer mission to determine the: (1) cost, schedule, expected performance, and status of the missions; and (2) causes and impacts of schedule delays and cost increases.

GAO found that: (1) project cost estimates increased $952 million for the Galileo mission, $219 million for the Magellan mission, and $221 million for the Mars Observer mission, while estimates for the Ulysses mission decreased $8 million; (2) all missions experienced delays in launch and completion dates; and (3) NASA would meet or exceed initial objectives in the Galileo, Magellan, and Mars Observer missions, but would fail to achieve the initial objectives in the Ulysses mission because of budget reductions. GAO also found that: (1) the Galileo spacecraft was in storage, and project scientists were modifying instruments and spacecraft systems; (2) the European Space Agency's Ulysses spacecraft and instruments were in storage, and scientists were replacing the spacecraft's upper stage; (3) the Magellan spacecraft and radar system were in preparation for testing; and (4) NASA was renegotiating the contract to build the Mars Observer spacecraft. GAO also found that: (1) delays in the space shuttle launch schedule, frequent upper-stage changes, and funding reductions caused extensive and costly mission redesign and hardware modifications; (2) project delays gave NASA the opportunity to expand the Galileo and Mars Observer missions; and (3) delays prevented scientists and engineers from pursuing other scientific research.

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