22 December 2015

Due To Leaky Instrument, Mars InSight Mission Won't Launch Next Year After All

Article re posted from http://www.popsci.com/mars-insight-mission-suspended-due-to-leaky-instrument



The InSight (Interior exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport) lander was designed take Mars' vital signs: Its "pulse" (seismology), "temperature" (heat flow probe), and "reflexes" (precision tracking).

The Mars InSight lander, built to study Mars' interior and geological history, was scheduled to lift off from Earth in March 2016. Now several news outlets are reporting that, faced with a faulty seismometer, the mission will be delayed at least 26 months.

In order to study Mars' tremors, the lander's seismometers needed to be sealed in an airtight chamber--otherwise wind creates confusing noise in the data. However, engineers have been unable to make the French-made Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) airtight.

Instead of launching in March, the mission will have to wait at least 26 months until Earth and Mars are in the proper alignment--that is, if NASA hasn't called off the mission entirely. It's not yet clear at this point what NASA's plans are, but we'll find out more at a teleconference today at 3:30 Eastern.

“We’re all just pretty disappointed right now. Devastated would be a better word,” says Lisa Pratt, a biogeochemist at Indiana University in Bloomington and chairwoman of a Mars advisory committee for NASA, told ScienceInsider.

SEIS is one of two principle instruments onboard the $425 million spacecraft, the other being a thermometer that would be lowered into a small drilled hole.

Come back later for more updates after the 3:30 teleconference.

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