Mars InSight mission date set for 2018

A vacuum leak in one of the instruments onboard postponed the mission, but NASA has officially set the window for May 5, 2018.

A parachute for the Mars InSight mission is tested in a tunnel. (Charly W. Karl/Flickr)
A parachute for the Mars InSight mission is tested in a tunnel. (Charly W. Karl/Flickr)
A parachute for the Mars InSight mission is tested in a tunnel. (Charly W. Karl/Flickr)

NASA announced a new launch date for the Mars InSight mission, originally scheduled for March 2016.  A vacuum leak in one of the instruments onboard postponed the mission, but NASA has officially set the window for May 5, 2018.

The Mars InSight mission — short for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport — is the first terrestrial planet exploration mission designed to study the deep interior of Mars. The craft is projected to land on November 26, 2018 and last for one Martian year  — or about 728 days.

“This confirmation of the launch plan for InSight is excellent news and an unparalleled opportunity to learn more about the internal structure of the Red Planet, which is currently of major interest to the international science community,” Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales President Jean-Yves Le Gall said in a statement.

The mission aims to determine the size, thickness, density and overall structure of the planet to understand more about the processes that shaped the planets like Mars and Earth over four billion years ago, according to NASA.

Denver’s Lockheed Martin Space Systems designed the spacecraft by furthering designs from the lander it designed for the 2007 Mars Phoenix mission. Reusing the technology makes for a low-risk journey to Mars at a significantly reduced price.

The craft will carry instruments on which British, French (CNES), German and Swiss institutes and universities collaborated. The Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure, Heat Flow and Properties Package and Interior Structure Experiment will record seismic waves from “marsquakes,” meteorite impacts and tidal deformations from Mars’ moon Phobos in order to determine the interior structure of the planet, according to the Max Planck Institute.

The Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package will hammer sensors into the surface of the planet to determine planetary heat flow and surface brightness temperature. Lastly, the Rotation and Interior Structure Experiment will enable Doppler tracking of the lander’s location to measure variations in Mars’ axis, according to NASA.

Due to the dynamics of the orbits of Earth and Mars, the first available launch date is in 2018. See you soon-ish, Mars.

Multimedia business & healthcare reporter Chloe Aiello can be reached via email at caiello@denverite.com or twitter.com/chlobo_ilo.

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