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March 9, 2016

NASA reschedules Mars InSight mission to May 2018

by John_A

NASA’s next major mission to Mars, InSight, is officially back on track with a new launch window starting on May 5, 2018, and a landing on the Red Planet planned for November 26, 2018. InSight (which stands for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport) was originally scheduled to launch this month, but the agency announced a delay last December due to a leak in its vacuum enclosure. If you couldn’t tell by its extended name, the mission will focus on a deep interior exploration of Mars, which will help us better understand how rocky planets are formed.

“The science goals of InSight are compelling, and the NASA and CNES [France’s space agency] plans to overcome the technical challenges are sound,” John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, said in a statement today. “The quest to understand the interior of Mars has been a longstanding goal of planetary scientists for decades. We’re excited to be back on the path for a launch, now in 2018.”

As NASA explains it, InSight’s seismometer needs to work in a vacuum chamber to be sensitive enough for measuring things “as small as the half the radius of a hydrogen atom.” The agency plans to have the new instrument completed by 2017. It’s unclear how much the two-year delay will cost, but NASA expects to have an estimate ready in August.

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