Finally, NASA’s InSight lander mission is set for takeoff in the spring of 2018. It was announced on Friday, Sept. 2, that the Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) will be up after patching all the structural issues that stymied its scheduled launch in March 2016.
The InSight launch was hampered by a serious structural problem after one of the two sensitive science instruments developed leaks. The March launch of InSight was blocked by the leaks in the vacuum-sealed instrument of the lander, named as the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS).
As a prime instrument, it is an important tool in measuring tremors in the ground. NASA could not patch the leaks within the scheduled launch date and it led to another leak.
According to a statement, NASA will be investing $153.8 million more to the existing $675 million budget to address the structural problems.
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) scientists are now fixing the problem ahead of the 2018 launch, according to Space magazine.
Perfect Launch Of InSight Expected
Under the new schedule, the launch date will be May 5, 2018, and the landing will be on Nov. 26, 2018. NASA is leaving no stone unturned to make sure that the new launch is perfect.
French space agency, the Centre National d’études Spatiales, is taking care of the key sensors of SEIS and their integration into the spacecraft, according to a report. German Aerospace Center (DLR) is looking after the heat flow properties for Insight’s payload.
According to a top NASA official, the InSight mission to Mars is an ambitious expedition to enhance research on the origins of Mars and is a way to attain comprehensive update on all the rocky planets including Earth.
“Our robotic scientific explorers such as InSight are paving the way toward an ambitious journey to send humans to the Red Planet,” said Geoff Yoder, acting associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, in Washington.
The data that InSight will compile on seismology and heat flow will come handy for the Mars 2020 rover mission. NASA is also mounting a helicopter-like drone for an advance survey of Mars ahead of the Mars 2020 mission. The drone will index interesting locations and help in staying off sand traps and speed up the rover’s daily travel.
The JPL of NASA is currently testing a full-scale prototype of the solar-powered helicopter, according to sources.
“We’re going to put it in a chamber and simulate, exactly, the Mars atmosphere,” Charles Elachi who is Director of NASA’s JPL told Space News.