NASA’s New Mars Exploration Mission Set For May 2018 Launch

The new mission will help scientists understand how rocky planets, including Earth, formed and evolved.

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Tech News
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NASA’s new InSight mission is set to launch in 2018 (Photo: iStock)

NASA’s new InSight mission set to study the deep interior of Red Planet is targeting a new launch window that begins on May 5, 2018, with a Mars landing scheduled for November 26 in the same year.

The Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) mission will help scientists understand how rocky planets, including Earth, formed and evolved.

The spacecraft had been on track to launch this month until a vacuum leak in its prime science instrument prompted NASA in December to suspend preparations for launch.

John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, DC said,

The science goals of InSight are compelling and the NASA and France’s space agency Centre National d’etudes Spatiales (CNES) plans to overcome the technical challenges are sound. The quest to understand the interior of Mars has been a longstanding goal of planetary scientists for decades. We’re excited to be back on the path for a launch, now in 2018.

Engineers from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California will redesign, build and conduct qualifications of the new vacuum enclosure for the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS), the component that failed in December.

CNES will lead instrument level integration and test activities, allowing the InSight Project to take advantage of each organisation’s proven strengths.

The mission will help scientists understand how rocky planets including Earth formed and evolved. (Photo: iStockphoto)
The mission will help scientists understand how rocky planets including Earth formed and evolved. (Photo: iStockphoto)

The seismometer instrument’s main sensors need to operate within a vacuum chamber to provide the exquisite sensitivity needed for measuring ground movements as small as half the radius of a hydrogen atom.

The rework of the seismometer’s vacuum container will result in a thoroughly tested instrument in 2017 that will maintain a high degree of vacuum around the sensors through rigours of launch, landing, deployment and a two-year prime mission on the surface of Mars.

The shared and renewed commitment to this mission continues our collaboration to find clues in the heart of Mars about the early evolution of our solar system.
Marc Pircher, director of CNES’s Toulouse Space Centre

NASA is on an ambitious journey to Mars that includes sending humans to the Red Planet, and that work remains on track.

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