NASA’s Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport – also known as InSight, was constructed to explore the depths of Mars by March 2016, but this may no longer be until NASA decides what to do with it – Space.com reported.
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NASA revealed in December last year that the InSight lander may not go off after all as earlier scheduled for March due to an unexpected leak in a vacuum containing around one of its major instruments.
NASA scheduled the blast off for next month because this is the time the Earth will be favorably aligned to Mars – but this opportunity may pass until mid-2018, since the favorable alignment Earth and the red planet occurs once every 26 months.
NASA could still decide to launch the Mars lander by March, or alternative scrap the whole program based on how things turn out with the InSight lander.
"We are still assessing InSight," said David Radzanowski, NASA chief financial officer. "We are making a decision in the March timeframe as to whether we will continue support to InSight for the next launch opportunity in 2018, or go some other route."
There are two key science instruments aboard InSight Mars lander, and these are a suite of three seismometers basically known as Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS), and the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package – a heat probe that is made drive itself almost 16.5 feet or 5 meters down into the surface of Mars.
Designed by CNES, the French national space agency, the round vacuum chamber around the SEIS is what is actually faulty. This became faulty as a result of some defective weld which induced it to start leaking gas. CNES officials said NASA’s potential decision to shift the launch date to 2018 will afford the agency plenty of time to repair the faulty chamber.
A total budget of $675 was planned for the construction of the lander out of which $525 had already been spent, but it is now left to NASA to decide if shifting its launch date to 2018 will not increase its costs above the $675 mark.
It is expected that InSight will do a great deal if it is eventually sent to Mars, revealing the planet’s core and its interior size among other scientific data which should tell about the formation of the planet and its rocky interior.
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InSight was planned to be launched from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on March 18, even though all NASA missions to space have always launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.