In what could be described as a big impediment to future Mars exploration, NASA its suspending its intended March 2016 launch of the Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) mission to Mars.
Bruce Banerdt, the InSight principal investigator, said that InSight’s investigation of the Mars planet’s interior will give a better understanding of how rocky planet like Mars and Earth were formed and evolved.
The instruments have been designed to measure movements as small as the diameter of an atom. The instrument vacuum sealed to withstand the harsh conditions on the red planet. NASA has called off the mission because there is little time to fix the leak in the seal of this vital instrument.
The InSight spacecraft was scheduled for launch in March and the leaking seal of the protective envelope around the lander’s seismometer, which is intended to measure ground movement on the red planet, had forced NASA to call off the mission.
The fact that the excellent chance of launching mission to Mars happens for a few week in every 26 months means that the task is delayed until March 2018.
John Grunsfeld, NASA’s science mission chief said that the launch date was very close, and it was not possible to repair the leak in time for the launch. The mission costs a total of $675 million, and some $525 million have been spent till now.
The goal of the mission is to study the core, mantle and crust of Mars much akin to the study of Earth’s core, mantle and crust.
NASA managers are now saying that it will take several months to the cause of the leak is ascertained. A redesign is not possible because it will take at least five years.
Mars will give a better understanding of Earth’s early development because the crust and the mantle of the red planet have been undisturbed as compared to Earth.