Faulty tool halts Nasa Mars mission

There is a bright side of today's delay: NASA and CNES found this problem while the spacecraft was still on Earth. The decision comes after attempts to fix a leaking instrument on the robot before the scheduled March launch.

The agency will review potential solutions to the instrumental problem, as well as run the costs of potentially delaying the mission for two years.

The instrument involved is the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS), a seismometer provided by the French Space Agency (CNES) that will help answer questions about the interior structure and processes within the deep Martian interior. It's necessary for the instruments to perform in a vacuum in order to have highly focused sensitivity needed to pick up data. But the results from a low-temperature vacuum test at a facility near Paris were so discouraging that they scratched the launch off the schedule. A leak in the instrument appears unable to be fixed by the craft's planned launch window from March 4 to March 30, 2016.

"This is a case where alignment of the planets matters", said Grunsfeld.

Nasa officials determined there is insufficient time to resolve another leak, and complete the work and thorough testing required to ensure a successful mission. The team will now evaluate their options going forward.

The $425 million mission was the most recent selection in NASA's Discovery program, which was meant to be low-priced yet competitive.

That is, if the InSight mission is able to proceed. Not to take anything away from the InSight team, but a boat on Titan?

However, the space agency stated that the cancellation of InSight mission would not affect other Mars missions. Meanwhile, NASA is readying yet another rover for launch to Mars in 2020.

This is a bitter pill to swallow right after the great news for NASA's budget in 2016. It would have landed on Mars six months after launch.

It's not clear when the mission will be rescheduled, but it is not expected to launch until 2017 at the earliest.



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