Looks like Mars Phoenix (or Mars Phoenix’s ghost) will have to wait another two years for a new companion— the Mars Science Laboratory, originally planned for a launch next year, has been delayed until 2011.
It goes to show that the economy’s bad in space, too. But aside from budgetary overages, the MSL is one of the most advanced crafts ever to shoot for the red planet. It will be able to redirect its course late into the landing phase, and will actually touch down on a tether lowered from a hovering descent stage. On board will be the biggest science payload every to hit Martian soil, which will study past signs of water in four potential landing sites.