Mission is still on for a 2018 launch date.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was considering ending its InSight robotic Mars mission due to all the problems with the mission that has led to several launch delays and postponements, but the decision has been made to re-schedule the launch for May of 2018, according to space.com.
The latest issue with the mission was a leak in a vacuum chamber surrounding a key instrument, which was constructed by the French space agency, CNES. The launch was planned for March of this year, but was delayed by the leak that could not be fixed in time to meet the launch window deadlines. The two planets only align favorably for missions every 26 months.
NASA is now targeting a May 5, 2018 launch date and John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, said they were excited to be back on the path for the launch. He added the understanding of the interior of Mars has been a long-standing goal of scientists for decades.
The robotic probe will arrive on the Red Planet around November 26 of 2018, if all goes well with the plan, and once there, it will begin to gather data from the interior of the planet that is expected to provide information about the structure and formation of rocky planets like Mars.
One of the major concerns with the program and all the delays is the cost of the project, that was capped at $675 million. With the problems already experienced, the agency has spent over $525 million on the mission to this point. NASA says they don’t know exactly how much more it will cost to fund the mission, but the agency says it expects to have an estimate by August of this year, as soon as arrangements have been made with the launch providers.
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, is working on a replacement chamber for the one that failed in the last attempt, and the French agency CNES will coordinate the installation of the testing instrument into the new chamber.
European and Russian space agencies plan to launch a methane-sniffing Mars orbiter next week from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.