Missing launch window causes 26-month delay in Mars mission launch.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) announced it will not launch its InSight spacecraft to Mars in March of 2016 as originally planned, due to a leak in on of the primary pieces of scientific equipment on board the craft, according to scientificamerican.com.
The postponement means that the earliest the mission could launch could be 26 months from now, in 2018, because that is the next time the Earth-Mars orbital geometry is favorable for the launch to the planet.
One facet of InSight’s mission to Mars was to measure the size and composition of the inner core of the planet by listening to Mars quakes and recording how they resonate through the planet. And the key component for the measurements was a siesmometer, which was found to have a leaking vacuum seal, thus causing the delay, since the repairs could not be made in time to launch during the current window.
The delay is likely to cause disruptions in the timing of other NASA missions as well. The failure to get the InSight mission off on schedule will probably require additional money to get the probe off the ground by 2018 and that additional funding will eat into the space agency’s budget.
In the mean time, a mission to Mars by the European Space Agency (ESA) is planned in March of 2016. This mission plan is to launch a Trace Gas Orbiter, which plans to search for methane and other atmospheric gasses that may have been produced by lifeforms on Mars.
The agency says it also plans an attempt to test technologies for descent and landing on the planet in preparation for the 2018 phase of their Mars program and for unscheduled future Mars missions.
Initially, the ESA and NASA were in partnership for this mission, but budget cuts forced NASA to withdraw and their shoes were filled by the Russian space agency Roscomos.