NASA scrubs launch of Mars InSight lander

The SEIS instrument is the light-colored dome at lower left.

A United States technology satellite planned to start in March to Mars continues to be seated as a result of trickle in a vital study device, NASA stated on Thursday, making doubt concerning the widely-anticipated work review the inside of the planet's potential.

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

While the instrument itself was working perfectly, the problem was maintaining the vacuum.

The InSight stationary lander is based on NASA's Phoenix lander, which set down at the Martian North Pole in 2008, and is designed for a 720-day primary mission near the Martian equator. Created to measure ground movements as small as the diameter of an atom, the instrument requires a vacuum seal around its three main sensors to withstand the harsh conditions of the Martian environment, according to NASA. A vacuum leak detected during testing of the seismometer was repaired last week in France and is undergoing further testing. It beat out two other outstanding mission concepts. The ideal 2016 launch window is between March 4 and 30th.

Despite the budgetary concerns, Grunsfeld expressed hope that the InSight mission would go forward. We should hear more about exactly what the issue is and what happens next. The Odyssey and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft now orbit the planet, as does the MAVEN orbiter, which recently helped scientists understand what happened to the Martian atmosphere. That added hundreds of millions of dollars to the mission cost, boosting the total price tag to $2.5 billion.

"The decision follows unsuccessful attempts to fix an air leak on a key component of the mission's science payload", NASA said in a statement. To date, InSight has already cost $525 million.

If InSight survives its pending review, it will be the agency's first interplanetary mission to lift off from Vandenberg; such missions normally launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Bruce Banerdt, a geologist who has spent his life studying the evolution of Mars and who is the mission's principal investigator, said he has been waiting a long time to answer these questions.

The uncrewed Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1) is the next space flight of Orion that will be launched into a distant retrograde orbit around the moon in 2018. Meanwhile, NASA is readying yet another rover for launch to Mars in 2020.

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