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Conflict Delays NASA's Mars Scout Launch to 2013

WASHINGTON- Launch of the next Mars Scout mission will be delayed by two years to 2013due to an undisclosed conflict of interest with one of two finalists, Doug McCuistion,NASA's Mars Exploration program director,said in a Dec. 21 teleconference with reporters.

Upondiscovering the conflict, the evaluation panel was disbanded, and an entirelynew panel has been formed, McCuistion said. New proposals for the next Mars Scoutmission will be due in August, and the selection will occur in December 2008,he said.

Thesechanges to the evaluation panel have pushed the next Mars Scout mission out ofthe planned 2011 launch window, McCuistion said. Planetary alignment betweenthe Earth and Mars occurs every 26 months.

The "seriousconflict that required resolution," was found in an evaluation proposalfrom one of the two Boulder, Colo.-based finalists, McCuistion said. Though herefused to disclose the details, McCuistion said the conflict, which wasannounced Nov. 28, was related to procurement.

NASA established the Mars Scout program to fundrelatively inexpensive missions to the red planet. The first such mission, MarsPhoenix, launched Aug. 4.

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