NASA engineers need more time to fix the lander
(Mirror Daily, United States) – Last week, it was reported that a new mission to the Red Planet will launch in 2016, but NASA’s Mars lander InSight is not ready to launch and has presented with a leak. It’s unfortunate news for the space agency, scientists, as well as space enthusiasts.
NASA’s InSight was supposed to explore the interior mantle of Mars in all its rocky glory and potential activity below the surface. It would have provided with invaluable information about the foreign planet’s rocky history, and others such as Earth, dating 4 billion years back. The stage was set, the equipment was built, the lander was shipped to California, but a problem appeared and the launch has been cancelled.
Last week, the Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) was shipped off to California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base, where it was meant to see additional testing. The lander was ready for deep explorations through its seismometer instrument, SEIS, developed by the French space program, Centre National d’Études Spatiales (CNES).
The extremely fragile equipment had exceptional capabilities through “exquisite sensitivity to ground motions as small as the width of an atom”. It was the first of its kind, and it was meant to provide useful information about Mars’ inner layers. SEIS has presented with a few problems in the past, but they were reported to have been fixed. Thus, the launch date was set between March 4th and March 30th, 2016.
It was supposed to be the first lander to launch from California, from which it would travel for 6 months until it reached the Red Planet in late September.
However, it appears that the problem persisted. The same leak reappeared in testing, and the team of scientists do not have sufficient time to repair it. It’s not an area where chances are afforded. According to John Grunsfeld from NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, “space exploration is unforgiving” and not even their boundary-breaking technology can withstand it. Not without proper repairs that will not be completed this year.
The unfortunate problem has led to NASA cancelling its anticipated InSight mission to Mars. They do not have time to fix the leak and make it to the launch pad this year. And since chances to send spacecrafts to Mars only once every 26 months, it likely means InSight will not see outer space until mid-2018.
Officials determined that it will be enough time to make the much needed repairs on the SEIS, in order to assure a successful mission. However, NASA also stated that this will not affect any other of their plans regarding Mars. Everything remains in place. InSight, however, will remain on Earth.
Image source: jpl.nasa.gov