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Key NASA Mars Mission Delayed By 26 Months

Update Date: Dec 28, 2015 09:31 AM EST

A key NASA Mars mission has been delayed due to a vacuum leak in one of the payloads designed to determine the inner composition of the planet.

NASA announced the leak earlier this month when it said that sensors part of the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure designed by CNES, the French Space Agency, are experiencing a leak. The sensors were part of the InSight mission.

"The seismometer is the prime science payload that will help answer questions about the interior structure and processes within the deep Martian interior. The seismometers need to operate in a vacuum in order to provide exquisite sensitivity to ground motions as small as the width of an atom. After the final sealing of the sphere, a small leak was detected, that would have prevented meeting the science requirements once delivered to the surface of Mars," NASA said in a press release on December 3, adding that repairs on to ensure that mission takes off in March next year.

That however seems unlikely now according to Scientific American, which reported that the launch will be delayed by 26 months, when the next opportune moment arrives to launch the spacecraft, built by Lockheed Martin.

NASA has also officially announced that it would suspend the launch. "After thorough examination, NASA managers have decided to suspend the planned March 2016 launch of the Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) mission. The decision follows unsuccessful attempts to repair a leak in a section of the prime instrument in the science payload," NASA said in a recent press release.

Experts quoted by SA said the delay could upset schedules of other missions and also disrupt the finances, but remained unsure about the exact impact of the delay.

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