The next Mars mission – that was supposed to study the Red Planet’s interior – has been delayed by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and may now even be cancelled due to a broken vacuum seal.
A broken vacuum seal has delayed NASA’s next mission to Mars until 2018. InSight (the name of the mission) is meant to study Mars’ interior. Except from Earth, no other planet has been studied that way.
Marc Pircher, director of the French space agency that provided the seismometer (device which measures ground movement), said that this is the first time that scientists have built such a sensitive device. It is impossible to fix the problem by 2016, when the mission was initially set to launch, Pircher added.
The right conditions for a launch to Mars occur every 26 months, scientists say. If the vacuum needs to be redesigned, the InSight mission may be set back five years or more, otherwise it will likely launch in 2018.
John Grunsfeld, an administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, said that with these missions of space exploration, the boundaries of space technology are pushed to the max.
For the InSight mission the National Aeronautics and Space Administration has a budget of $675 million, of which it has already spent $525 million. The decision of launching the spacecraft will also be impacted by cost.
According to Mr. Grunsfeld, a decision with regard to the InSight mission will be made in the following months. It is important to note that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration remains committed to the exploration of Mars, he added.
Mars enthusiasts are the ones who took the news quite hard, but NASA assures everyone that the delay will not jeopardize the overall goal of studying the interior of Mars. To fix the problem with the seismic instrument, NASA will reviews several designs. The agency will also have to calculate the cost of setting the mission back two years (at least).
Lisa Pratt, chairwoman of a NASA advisory committee on Mars, said that people are rather devastated now, since they have long been waiting to get a seismic instrument on Mars.
Image Source: solarsystem.nasa.gov