NASA was working towards a launch of its Mars lander ‘Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations Geodesy and Heat Transport’ – abbreviated to InSight – next march. From september 2016 it would do a lot of science on the planet and taking photo’s with the latest technology.
A seismometer for measuring movements inside the planet – even at a nanoscale – from the Centre National d’Études Spatiales (CNES) in France however is having trouble keeping a vacuum. This is essential for such a mechanism in order to survive on the red planet and to keep working.
No ‘subtle problems’ please
“The vacuum issue is the only thing that was standing between us and launch,” Bruce Banerdt, InSight’s principal investigator at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, has said to CNN. “We do not believe that this is a fundamentally difficult problem, given enough time to systematically investigate and resolve it,” he said. “The French space agency estimates that a handful of months should suffice, although we will probably take a little longer to make sure there aren’t any further subtle problems hiding in the wings.”
As all other devices and scientific projects were ready for takeoff this is a bitterblow. It means InSight will have to wait at least till 2018 before the opportunity is available for a speedy trip to Mars. Tge InSight-team was particularly excited to see the launch coming, as this mission is a relatively young project and could give important new insight and knowledge.