NASA calls off planned March 2016 launch of Mars lander

NASA calls off planned March 2016 launch of Mars lander

The US space agency NASA has cancelled the planned launch of a Mars lander in March 2016. The agency said one of the key instruments of the spacecraft can’t be fixed in time for liftoff.

The Red Planet and Earth align favorably only once in every 26 months, due to which now, NASA's InSight Mars lander has to wait until mid-2018 to start its mission to characterize interior of Mars in unmatched detail, in case the spacecraft gets off the ground at all. The agency officials said there indeed is likelihood that the mission will be scrapped totally.

During a teleconference on December 22, while referring to the determination of the ultimate fate of InSight, John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, said, “That's all forward work. We just haven't had time to work through that because our focus was on getting ready to launch”.

The issue is with the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS), which a among the 2 primary science instruments of InSight. SEIS has been provided by the French space agency CNES. It is a suite of 3 seismometers developed for measuring ‘Mars quakes’ and other subsurface activity on Mars.

SEIS needs a vacuum environment for making its ultraprecise measurements. Earlier this month, NASA and CNES officials made an announcement that vacuum container of SEIS was leaking. It is a problem that traced to a defective weld.

Two weeks back, CNES President Jean-Yves Le Gall said that he was optimistic that the issue would be rectified timely for SEIS' shipment to the United States in the beginning of January. Grunsfeld said that the fixes indeed seemed to be working till December 21, when a leak came to light at the time of testing at a facility in France.

Popular Stories