Big problem strikes Mars rover — mission may be dead

Big problem strikes Mars rover — mission may be dead

A key component on the rover sprung a leak, and now the launch won't happen for a while.

NASA is delaying the launch of the next Mars lander that was supposed to be sent to the Red Planet, and the mission itself could be cancelled.

A leak in the vacuum chamber that houses a scientific instrument necessary to the mission in the InSight Mars lander will certainly delay the March 2016 launch of the rover, and it may kill the rover altogether, according to a report.

That’s because it’s not so easy to find a good launch window for a trip to launch, and the next window isn’t until mid-2018. In the meantime, NASA officials will try to figure out whether to shoot for a launch then or just can the InSight program, according to the report.

Still, the setback shouldn’t harm the overall progress of NASA’s mission to Mars, which will hopefully culminate in an actual manned mission in the coming years. While an important mission, the InSight rover was focused on a fairly narrow scientific target that won’t inhibit the mission to the Red Planet going forward.

The big mission that NASA and other agencies are focused on going forward is Mars 2020, which is the next rover mission that will feature a six-wheeled vehicle costing $1.5 billion aimed at finding signs of life and possibly even gathering samples that could be returned to Earth.

After Mars 2020, the focus will be on actually putting humans on the Red Planet, but that will take until the late 2030s at least before we are capable of that. After all, the last time astronauts were put on another cosmic body was back in the 1970s with the Apollo missions to the moon, and that was right next door — Mars is tens of millions of miles away, when it is at its closest.

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