NASA salvages Mars mission that should have launched by now (Update)

March 9, 2016 by Marcia Dunn
NASA salvages Mars mission that should have launched by now (Update)
This August 2015 artist's rendering provided by NASA/JPL-Caltech depicts the InSight Mars lander studying the interior of Mars. On Wednesday, March 9, 2016, NASA said it's shooting for a 2018 launch of the InSight spacecraft. The robotic lander was supposed to lift off in March 2016, but was grounded in December by a leak in a French instrument. Project managers said the device should be redesigned in time. (NASA/JPL-Caltech via AP)

NASA's next Mars mission is still alive.

Instead of scrapping the grounded Mars InSight spacecraft, the space agency announced Wednesday it's shooting for a 2018 launch. The robotic lander was supposed to lift off this month, but ended up sidelined in December by a leak in a key French instrument. Project managers said the device should be redesigned in time.

May 2018 represents the next available launch window. Opportunities to launch to Mars arise just every two years, based on the alignment of Earth and its neighbor.

The InSight spacecraft aims to study the interior of Mars by drilling deep within. The sensors for the French seismometer need to operate in a vacuum chamber in order to measure subtle ground movements. The vacuum chamber was leaking. The other main science instrument, a German heat-flow probe, was ready to fly.

It's unknown how much the two-year delay will cost. NASA's only other option was to kill the project.

John Grunsfeld, head of NASA's science mission directorate, said the scientific goals are compelling and the repair plans are sound. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, will take over the redesign, building and testing of the vacuum chamber, while the French space agency focuses on the science instrument itself.

"The quest to understand the interior of Mars has been a long-standing goal of planetary scientists for decades," Grunsfeld said in a statement. "We're excited to be back on the path for a launch, now in 2018."

Mars is NASA's prime focus these days. Just last week, astronaut Scott Kelly completed a 340-day mission at the International Space Station that's considered a scientific steppingstone for sending humans to the red planet in the 2030s.

Another NASA Mars lander—this one a car-sized, wheeled rover—is scheduled for a 2020 launch.

The red planet already is teeming with active spacecraft, including NASA's Opportunity and Curiosity rovers on the surface, and Odyssey, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and Maven orbiter from high above. Europe has its Express spacecraft in orbit around the red planet.

Europe is launching another Mars mission Monday from Kazakhstan—an orbiter for measuring atmospheric gases and a lander collectively known as ExoMars 2016.

Explore further: NASA: Leak in French instrument may stall next Mars mission

More information: NASA: insight.jpl.nasa.gov/home.cfm

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5 comments

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torbjorn_b_g_larsson
5 / 5 (8) Mar 09, 2016
Yay! Let's science the shit out of Mars.
Captain Stumpy
4.3 / 5 (6) Mar 09, 2016
Yay! Let's science the shit out of Mars.
better yet, lets take some ungulate (or related herbivore) sh*t and grow the hell out of Mars!

i volunteer to settle the h*ll out of the red planet!
after all, i already left my body to Science Fiction...
ROBTHEGOB
1.8 / 5 (5) Mar 10, 2016
Apparently, you left your brain to SF also.
bluehigh
3 / 5 (4) Mar 10, 2016
Captain, I didn't see any [sarcasm] tag, so you're serious?

Any shit is gonna be bleached, disinfected and freeze dried on Mars. The inert cellulose will then scatter into the dust, gone forever.

With all the crap that goes on in these comments, I'd expect your use of asterisks is unnecessary but maybe you're just being polite and sensitive to the feelings of others. Lol.
Captain Stumpy
5 / 5 (1) Mar 11, 2016
Captain, I didn't see any [sarcasm] tag, so you're serious?
@Blue
well... i normally do tag that stuff... but that time i didn't think it was needed given the "science fiction" comment...

about the asterisks... wife asked me to, i respect her. so i tend to use asterisks in the expletives. so yeah, it was being polite, but mostly out of respect to the wife and grandkids who sometimes frequent this page

The sh*t thing - if it travels to Mars, i fully expect it to be freeze dried or desiccated (weight) but i also think it will end up in protected areas sans wind or direct exposure to the atmosphere. best place IMHO: underground greenhouses

this would allow for the benefit and reduce the loss.
they've already started testing and planning: http://www.popsci...ars-soil

http://www.nasa.g...ars-soil

this one is cool
http://commtechla...port.pdf

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