NASA scrubs launch of Mars InSight lander

Share

InSight, short for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations Geodesy and Heat Transport, was expected to arrive at Mars in September to take measurements of the red planet's interior and its atmosphere and to take color images.

NASA has a launch window from Earth to Mars for only a few weeks every two years and the timeframe for Insight was March 4 to March 30 next year.

"Unfortunately, since last August we've been fighting a series of very small leaks", John M. Grunsfeld, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA, said during the news conference.

While the InSight mission was meant to be focused on scientific study, the data gathered by the lander would have undoubtedly helped provide NASA with information that could be used to help plan for infrastructure that will probably be established before humans even set foot on the ground.

"We will have something to look forward to during the otherwise barren years for NASA's planetary program between the launch of OSIRIS-REx (Fall 2016) and the Mars 2020 rover (Fall 2020)".

NASA has suspended its next scheduled mission to Mars because scientists have failed to fix a faulty vacuum seal in the InSight spacecraft. However, while recently conducting a test in acute cold temperature of -45 degrees Celsius, the device again experienced failure. There will be costs associated with storing the spacecraft and maintaining the associated workforce and science team for the next two years that could crowd out a new mission.

"The successes of that mission's rover, Curiosity, have vastly outweighed any disappointment about that delay".

Nasa officials determined there is insufficient time to resolve another leak, and complete the work and thoroughly testing required to ensure a successful mission.

"It's the first time ever that such a sensitive instrument has been built", said Marc Pircher, Director of CNES s Toulouse Space Center.

NASA's and the other organizations on the project have already spent $525 million of their $675 million budget, which is capped at that amount by Congress.

Scientists have high hopes for the probe, expecting it to tell them how Mars is cooling, whether the core of Mars is solid or liquid like Earth's, and why the Mars' crust is not divided into tectonic plates that drift like they do on Earth. Though not irreparable, NASA says that there isn't time to fix the SEIS and make the launch deadline. Missions to Mars typically have fit into a small window where the orbits of both planets are close enough to make the trip economically feasible.

NASA's InSight Mars lander is seen inside the back shell of its protective Aeroshell during spacecraft assembly in July 2015.

Share