Tuesday, December 22, 2015

NASA's Mars InSight Lander Postponed to 2018

NASA will hold a press call Tuesday afternoon (Dec. 22) to discuss its decision to suspend a March launch campaign for the Mars InSight lander, which was shipped to its launch site this month despite a problem with one of its instruments.

The holdup with the instrument, the French-built Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS), means InSight will miss its Mars launch window and be stuck on the ground for about another two years, NASA said in a press release that hit the wire Tuesday afternoon on the heels of a brief heads-up emailed to journalists that morning.

“After thorough examination, NASA managers have decided to suspend the March 2016 launch of the Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) mission,” NASA said in its Tuesday morning notice. “The decision follows unsuccessful attempts to repair an air leak on a key component of the mission’s science payload.”

SEIS, provided by the French Space Agency (CNES), suffered “a leak in the vacuum container carrying its main sensors,” NASA confirmed Dec. 3. The instrument is still in France undergoing repairs at at Paris-based Sodern.

The leak was caused by a defective weld on the instrument’s vacuum tank, CNES President Jean-Yves Le Gall told SpaceNews Dec. 8. At the time, Le Gall said CNES had performed a new weld that should have fixed the problem.

Even as NASA was preparing to brief reporters Dec. 22, Le Gall told SpaceNews that CNES had not given up on fixing the SEIS instrument in time to launch this year.


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