InSight spacecraft solar array deployment. Credit: NASA

The planned InSight mission to Mars has been delayed.

The US space administration NASA has canceled the previously set launch date of March 2016.

The decision was made since NASA has been experiencing problems with one of the most important scientific instruments on the spacecraft.

“The decision follows unsuccessful attempts to fix an air leak on a key component of the mission’s science payload”, NASA said in a statement.

Next appropriate “window” for launch – based on the planets’ position – is a full two years ahead in time.

NASA sure love their acronyms, InSight stands for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy, and Heat Transport.

The mission’s objective is to place a stationary lander equipped with a seismometer and heat transfer probe on the surface of Mars to study its early geological evolution. This would bring new understanding of the Solar System’s terrestrial planets — Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars — and Earth’s Moon.

InSight’s science payload includes two key instruments: SEIS, provided by CNES, and the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3), provided by the German Aerospace Center (DLR).

The problematic instrument was the SEIS, that were unable to hold a protective vacuum under simulated Martian conditions
NASA Suspends 2016 Launch of InSight Mission to Mars
Mission Site @ NASA