Boy, times have changed. About 42 to 43 years ago the saying used to be, "Mar's can't wait!" Planetary missions provided hard dates to shoot for, as orbital mechanics limited the number of opportunities we had to send things "economically" out into the solar system. Mars opportunities came every two years during favorable alignments of the earth and Mars. The orbital mechanics have not changed and the same is true for today. So what changed?
Last week NASA announced that the next mission in the Mars Scout program, originally planned for launch in 2011, is now targeted for launch in 2013. Is there a problem with an instrument running late? Ahhhh, no. Is the bus suffering from an integration problem. Ahhhh, no. Will the asteroid headed for Mars knock it out of its orbit around the sun? No, NASA will wait two years longer than planned and spend another $40 million to launch a half-billion-dollar probe to Mars because of an unspecified conflict of interest in the purchasing process.
And you know what? We're not surprised. And you shouldn't be either. After all, Doc H still works for the Emperor and will be watching the snow fall from behind a window in his home in Utah this winter, instead of sitting behind bars in a jail cell. What is surprising is that somebody called foul and held up the procurement. Could this be another sign that the Emperor is losing his touch?