NASA Suspends 2016 Mission to Mars
Science & Tech / /
NASA decides to suspend its 2016 mission to Mars due to a faulty instrument...
NASA officials say that the launch of the Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations Geodesy and Heat Transport (AKA InSight) has been postponed indefinitely. The decision is based on unsuccessful attemps to repair a leak in a secion of the prime instrument in the science payload.
The instrument in question is the Seismic Experiment for Interor Structure (SEIS) which is a sesmometer provided by France's Centre National d'Études Spatiales (CNES). The intrument is designed to measure ground movements as small as the diameter of an atom and it requires a vacuum seal around its three main sensors to withstand the harsh environment and the conditions on Mars.
Earlier in 2015 a similar problem with the sesmometer was successfully fixed, however, during testing on Monday (21 Dec 2015) in extreme cold temperature (49 degrees Fahrenheit/-45 degrees Celsius) the instrument again failed to hold a vacuum.
Marc Pircher, Director of CNES’s Toulouse Space Centre said:
“It’s the first time ever that such a sensitive instrument has been built. We were very close to succeeding, but an anomaly has occurred, which requires further investigation. Our teams will find a solution to fix it, but it won’t be solved in time for a launch in 2016.”
InSight’s science payload includes two key instruments: SEIS, provided by CNES, and the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3), provided by the German Aerospace Center (DLR).