NASA Mars InSight mission set for May 2018 launch

NASA has announced the new launch date that it is targeting to send the Mars InSight mission into the heavens on course to the Red Planet. The InSight mission was originally set to launch in March 2016, but was delayed. NASA is now targeting InSight for launch on May 5, 2018 with landing scheduled for November 26, 2018.

InSight will be the first NASA lander designed to deploy a probe into the Martian surface to help scientists understand how rockey planets like Mars and Earth formed. The InSight mission was on track to launch this month as planned before a vacuum leak in the prime science instrument was discovered and forced NASA to suspend launch preparations in December 2015. That leak forced scientists to propose a plan that will see the main science instrument redesigned.

NASA's JPL in California will redesign, build, and conduct the qualifications of the new vacuum enclosure for the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS), which is the component that filed leading to the three-year launch delay. Right now NASA doesn't know how much money this delay will cost the program, but an estimate will be available in August once arrangements with the launch vehicle provider have been made.

The main sensors of the seismometer have to operate inside a vacuum chamber to be able to provide the sensitivity needed to measure ground movement on the Red Planet as small as half the radius of a hydrogen atom. The redesign process is expected to provide a finished instrument in 2017 capable of maintaining the vacuum through launch, deployment, and the two-year mission on the surface. The delay of the InSight Mars mission won't delay other Mars missions in progress now according to NASA.