NASA news: InSight Mars mission pushes through; launch in 2018

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Instead of calling off the Mars InSight Mission due to technical issues with its lander, NASA has decided to keep the mission alive. The launch is now rescheduled to the next available launch window which is on May 2018.  NASA announced this decision last March 9. 

According to CNBC, John Grunsfeld, head of NASA’s science mission directorate, said, “The quest to understand the interior of Mars has been a long-standing goal of planetary scientists for decades…We’re excited to be back on the path for a launch, now in 2018.” Grunsfeld adds that the scienitific goals are “compelling” and the repair plans are “sound.”

Earlier this year, NASA was actually considering to scrap the mission instead. After technical problems, which was a leak in the vacuum enclosure that surrounds and protects the detectors of a seismometer, the mission was becoming a bit futile. Added with the fact that the launch will be delayed, the repairs for the technical problems will cost NASA an extra $150 million. 

“Because of a very late delivery of an instrument, we recognized that we weren’t going to be able to make it, so we’ve had to step back and begin to re-analyze what are our next steps,” Jim Green, head of NASA’s planetary science division, previously said as quoted by Spaceflight Now.

But now, given that NASA and the French seismometer manufacturer Centre National d’tudes Spatiales have found a permanent fix for the recurring leak, the InSight Mission is well on its way to provide more insights about the solar system. 

InSight stands for Interior Explration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport and is supposed to probe the surface of Mars and study its early geological evolution. NASA scientists hope to understand more about the formation of terrestrial planets, like Mars. The construction of the lander started in May 2014 with the initial testing done in May 2015. As of December 2015, over $525 million has already been spent by NASA for the InSight project, capping at $675 million.