NASA’s Curiosity rover has gathered a wealth of information on Mars since it first arrived on the planet’s surface in 2012. In the four years following its touchdown on Mars, Curiosity has gone much farther than any other rover in space exploration history, and has sent tons of information to researchers back home. That’s why many have expressed concerns about NASA’s upcoming InSight Lander, following a seismic instrument vacuum seal failure late last year that delayed its launch and put its future in doubt.
According to NASA, InSight will still be heading to Mars in the future, but it won’t be the near future many were hoping for; it’s now expected to launch sometime in 2018. When the lander makes it to Mars, it would be able to drill into the planet’s surface, in an attempt to study the subtleties and nuances of Mars’ surface, much like researchers have done on Earth. After its launch, NASA hopes to launch an actual Mars rover by 2020, with similar functions as Curiosity but with far more advanced features.
InSight comes with a total of three instruments, namely the aforementioned Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS), the Rotation and Interior Structure Experiment (RISE), and the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3) instruments. SEIS had failed back in December, causing the eleventh-hour cancellation of the InSight launch, and it’s easy to see why. It will be placed next to the lander on Mars’ surface, and it’s designed to be especially sensitive, allowing it to detect even the faintest movements, and also asteroid impacts taking place on the Red Planet.
According to NASA engineers working on InSight, they have developed a long-term solution for the defective seismometer, but there’s still no specific timeline or cost figure related to the delay. NASA will, however, be announcing financial specifics of the InSight mission in the summer. SEIS should be completely retooled sometime in 2017, or one year or so ahead of InSight’s rescheduled launch.