Although everybody eagerly awaits the launch of the Mars mission, it would seem that we will have to wait around some more. NASA postpones Mars Mission after a team of technicians found a leak in one of the instruments on board.
Luckily, the space agency managed to detect and isolate the incident while the spacecraft was still on the ground. The instrument in question was installed on a robotic arm and was vital for the success of the mission.
After identifying the issue, NASA attempted to make repairs to the faulty apparatus, but to no avail. Meanwhile, as the engineers conducted investigations, NASA weighs the potential costs of delaying the much-awaited Mars mission.
According to their statements, after assessing the extent of the damage, NASA decided to postpone the Mars mission, due to the fact the technicians will not be able to fix, nor to change the faulty instrument in time for March 2016 launch window.
The instrument in question is the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure. SEIS was shipped to NASA by the French Space Agency. The instrument would have provided valuable intel about Mars’s structure and goes on beneath the crust.
Now, for the instrument to perform flawlessly, SEIS must be able to take readings in complete vacuum. It would seem that the problem was first identified during one of the device’s earlier tests, which took place in Paris.
According to the scientists in charge of the project, the device’s first reading were more than inadequate. Realizing that there may be a problem with the instrument itself, a team of engineers examined the apparatus in order to see if there is a sensitivity related problem.
The team managed to trace back the problem to leak in the instrument. Unfortunately, as stated, all attempts to fix the leak in the device have been unsuccessful.
And it would seem that the repairs might take more than anticipated. The team of engineers working for the project declared that they will be unable to fix the device until the launch of the Mars mission, scheduled for the 30th of March, 2016.
InSight (the name of the project involving the seismograph) was scrubbed. Still, there’s a bit of good news. Although the project was delayed due to technical issues, ongoing Mars missions have not been cancel.
Meanwhile, NASA is making the final preparations in order to ship out yet another rover to the Red Planet.
According to NASA’s statements, the project won’t resume sooner than 2017.