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Sunday, December 27, 2015

NASA delays launch of InSight mission to Mars

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) decided to postpone the launch of the mission of Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) to Mars previously planned in March 2016.

"The conclusion is that we are not ready to launch in 2016," said John Grunsfeld of the NASA Science Mission Directorate in Washington.
This artist's concept from August 2015 depicts NASA's InSight Mars lander fully deployed for studying the deep interior of Mars. (Picture from: http://go.nasa.gov/1QWBquy)
The decision was taken following the failure of attempts to fix a leak in one part of the instrument Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS), a seismograph of the Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales (CNES) of France.

Equipment designed to measure the movement of land as small as the diameter of an atom that requires a vacuum seal around three sensor against harsh environmental conditions of Mars.

The device leaking in earlier this year, which has prevented seismometer maintaining vacuum conditions, has been repaired. But in testing at extreme cold temperatures (-45 degrees Celsius) on Monday, the instrument failed again to maintain the vacuum conditions.

NASA officials stated there was not enough time to finish the handling of other leaks, and that a complete and thorough examination is needed to ensure the success of the mission.

"This is the first time the instrument as sensitive as it is made. We are very close to success, but an anomaly occurs, which requires further research. Our team will find a solution to overcome, but it will not be resolved for the time of the launch in 2016," said Marc Pircher, Director of CNES Toulouse Space Centre.

InSight spacecraft built by Lockheed Martin have been shipped to Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on December 16, 2015. With the delay in the planned launch in 2016, the spacecraft will be returned to the Lockheed facility in Denver.

John Grunsfeld of NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington said a decision about the next plan will be made in the coming months.

"One thing is clear: NASA still fully committed to scientific discovery and exploration of Mars," he said. He said that studying the interior structure of Mars has been a goal of high priority for planetary scientists since the Viking era.

The InSight reasearch mission on the Red Planet interior is designed to increase understanding of how the rocky planets, including Earth, formed and changed and according to Bruce Banerdt, a Researcher InSight at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

"Mars maintain evidence about the early development of rocky planets, which has been erased on Earth, with a lack of internal struggle. Getting information about the core, mantle and crust of Mars is a top priority for planetary science, and InSight are built to achieve it," he said as quoted by NASA's official website. *** [EKA | FROM VARIOUS SOURCES | NASA]
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