A conflict of interest has forced NASA to delay a scheduled Mars probe by two years and spend an extra $40 million, the Associated Press reports. The panel choosing between two firms for the mission had to be replaced, and because Mars is only within reach every 26 months, the planned 2011 launch will be moved to 2013.
A NASA official called the conflict "serious" but would not elaborate. 2011 will mark the first missed opportunity to explore Mars since 1994. "I'm incredibly disappointed," the head of one of the research teams said. "We think we've got an outstanding mission and we're ready to go." One team rep said he knew of no conflicts; the other team declined comment.