Problem in Seismometer Instrument Delays NASA’s Next Mars Mission

Problem in Seismometer Instrument Delays NASA’s Next Mars Mission

Launch of NASA’s InSight Mars lander has been delayed after engineers with NASA found problem with a seismometer instrument of the lander. NASA officials assured that they will try to find a solution to the problem as soon as possible.

Constant issues with a seismometer instrument have delayed the launch of the NASA’s InSight Mars lander. The lander was earlier scheduled for a launch in March. Officials said if the issue continues, they might consider shelving the $675 million project.

NASA’s InSight spacecraft is a three-legged lander which is accompanied with several instruments to study interior structure of Mars. According to experts, the right time to launch a spacecraft to Mars comes every 26 months when the planets are in the right positions to make a direct journey possible.

John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA’s science mission directorate, said, “This is case where alignment of planets matters, and in order to get from Earth to Mars, they’re aligned about every 26 months. So we’re looking at some time in the May 2018 timeframe for the next opportunity”.

Grunsfeld nowhere in his comment mentioned any plans to cancel the mission. NASA presently is not sure about for how much more the delay and repair will cost, or whether it will bust the mission’s cost cap.

NASA has spent about $525 million on InSight till date, according to Jim Green, director of NASA’s planetary science division.

The InSight spacecraft was shipped from Colorado to California on December 16 inside a US Air Force C-17 cargo transport plane. The craft will now be returned to Lockheed Martin’s satellite integration center in Colorado for storage until NASA decides what to do with the InSight mission.

The Viking 1 lander touched down on the western slope of Chryse Planitia (the Plains of Gold), while the Viking 2 lander settled down at Utopia Planitia.

Besides taking photographs and collecting other science data on the Martian surface, the two landers conducted three biology experiments designed to look for possible signs of life. These experiments discovered unexpected and enigmatic chemical activity in the Martian soil, but provided no clear evidence for the presence of living microorganisms in soil near the landing sites. According to scientists, Mars is self-sterilizing. They believe the combination of solar ultraviolet radiation that saturates the surface, the extreme dryness of the soil and the oxidizing nature of the soil chemistry prevent the formation of living organisms in the Martian soil, told the NASA.

The ScientificAmerican notes that, NASA will not launch its InSight spacecraft to Mars in March as originally planned, because of a leak in a French-built seismometer that is the spacecraft’s primary scientific instrument.

Technicians at CNES, the French space agency, have worked for months to repair a leak in a vacuum seal on the seismometer. OnDecember 22, NASA announced that it would suspend the launch. The delay means that InSight will not go off in 2016, but will have to wait 26 months until the Earth-Mars orbital geometry is once again favourable for launching a mission to the red planet.

In other news TheStar reported, a strong indicator that someone is having a “moment” is the degree to which that person has been co-opted by popular culture, seized and extruded through the die of the human imagination. Lots of people had that kind of year in 2015. But only one planet did.

Our fascination with Mars never really flags. But this year it seemed to hit a particularly high pitch, with chatter ricocheting out of the lab and into popular discourse — or in the reverse. And thanks to hardworking scientists, there were plenty of developments from the world of fact to fuel Martian fervour.

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