Mars Mission Delayed; NASA Cancels March Launch
NASA has delayed its next mission to Mars because of an instrument leak in the vacuum container that carries its main sensors.
The earlier plan was for the InSight spacecraft to take off in March and arrive on the Mars surface next year. Earlier Tuesday, though, supervisors suspended the trip because one of the two main science instruments has an air leak. It is a seismometer called the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS), which the French Space Agency (CNES) provides. It's necessary for the instruments to perform in a vacuum in order to have highly focused sensitivity needed to pick up data. Efforts to fix the leak have been unsuccessful, said NASA, according to a release.
Mars missions only have the opportunity to launch every two years. It isn't clear yet whether NASA canceled the mission or if the actions represent a delay until 2018, as the Washington Post reported.
The name InSight is short for Interior Exploration Using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport. It is a terrestrial planet explorer, and will work to learn what processes helped form the rocky planets of the inner solar system, more than four billion years ago. This includes Earth, according to a statement.
On a Mars mission, InSight will go beneath the Mars surface and measure the planet's seismology, heat-flow probe, and learn about its reflexes by precision tracking.
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