NASA's InSight Mars Lander Mission Might Be Scrapped Next Month

Wednesday, 10 February 2016 - 1:59PM
Space
Mars
Wednesday, 10 February 2016 - 1:59PM
NASA's InSight Mars Lander Mission Might Be Scrapped Next Month
The planned launch of the InSight Mars lander has already been delayed, and sometime next month, NASA will decide whether the launch will be rescheduled or scrapped altogether. 

The lander was scheduled to launch in March in order to study the Red Planet, but NASA announced in December that the mission had been delayed as a result of a leak in the vacuum container surrounding one of its science instruments. The next launch window, which occurs approximately every 26 months when Earth and Mars have an optimal alignment, is in 2018, and the vacuum container could likely be fixed by then. However, NASA will decide next month whether to move forward with the project or whether to cancel the mission entirely.

Opening quote
"We are still assessing InSight," NASA chief financial officer David Radzanowski said during a news conference yesterday (via Space.com). "We are making a decision in the March timeframe as to whether we will continue support to InSight for the next launch opportunity in 2018, or go some other route."
Closing quote

If the InSight lander ever does launch, it will tell us key information about the Red Planet, which could also shed light on other terrestrial planets in our solar system. The lander consists of two main scientific instruments: the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) and the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3). The SEIS is a suite of three seismometers that will measure internal activity on Mars in order to better understand the planet's geological history, including its response to meteorite impacts. The HP3 is a penetrative tool that is designed to probe Mars' surface and discover the size and density of the core and mantle, shedding light on the formation of Mars and other rocky planets, including Earth.

It's unclear why NASA is considering cancellation, although it could have something to do with an overall rethinking of their space exploration budget. This news conference specifically focused on the space agency's budget, and NASA has been under pressure from Congress to use their funding on exploratory missions that propel the plan for a manned mission forward. If InSight is scrapped, then perhaps it will be replaced by another mission that will get humans to Mars, or possibly a more feasible location, such as the Moon.
Science
NASA
Space
Mars

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