NASA has announced that its InSight mission has now been rescheduled to May 2018. The International Space Station experienced a setback last December when the initiative had to be abandoned due to a faulty instrument. A French-made seismographic instrument was found to have leaks in its vacuum container and so the project had to be abandoned. Researchers were hoping to leave on the expedition in March but realised the repairs wouldn’t be completed in time for the launch. The next available window will be May 2018 which, reported in The New York Times, is the next time that Earth and Mars are close enough to allow a quick six-month trip.
The aim of the mission is to study the interior structure of The Red Planet and learn more about its atmosphere. The seismometers, for which one was faulty, are a crucial part of the expedition as they will be used to detect and monitor ‘marsquakes’ – the shaking of tiny quakes that could give scientists more information about the core and crust of the planet. W. Bruce Banerdt, who is the mission’s principal investigator at NASA speaks of how “thrilled” he is that the reschedule has been confirmed,
I’m thrilled. We were hoping we would get the opportunity to give this another try
According to Scientific American, NASA isn’t sure how much this delay will cost. InSight is estimated to have cost $425-million which is part of the Discovery budget at NASA. Jim Green, the head of NASA’s planetary sciences division in Washington DC did not specify if this would impact other missions within the same budget but said the rescheduled date is “terrific news”.
In other news, the European Space Agency is set to launch the ExoMars orbiter and probe on March 14, in the hope of finding life on Mars. The British-built Beagle 2 is set to leave Kazakhstan and will take seven months to reach the planet.