Mars Postponed: Launch Delay Gives Little Company Another Chance to ‘Wow The Public’

When NASA announced last week it was postponing the launch of its next mission to Mars by 26 months, Michael Ravine says his heart sank—and then he breathed a sigh of relief.As the advanced projects manager at San Diego’s Malin Space Science Systems, Ravine says his team has been working frantically to deliver two cameras for the mission by the end of January. They are the last two of four cameras that NASA hired the company to build for the Mars Science Laboratory, an SUV-size rover designed for backcountry four-wheeling across the Martian landscape.

NASA’s decision to delay the launch that was set for next October until 2011 was disappointing, Ravine says. But the extra time could give one of San Diego’s most unusual business ventures a chance to restore advanced optical capabilities that NASA was forced to delete from the two cameras to meet its test schedule.

Malin’s 2004 proposal called for building identical stereoscopic cameras that would be mounted on masts aboard the big Mars rover. Ravine says that for several reasons their plans included a wide-field zoom lens in each mast camera. One was the fact that Ravine had recruited “Titanic” filmmaker James … Next Page »

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Bruce V. Bigelow was the editor of Xconomy San Diego from 2008 to 2018. Read more about his life and work here. Follow @bvbigelow

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