NASA Targets New Date for Mars InSight Drilling Mission

PHOTO: An artists depiction shows NASAs Insight lander on Mars after the lander has deployed a seismometer and heat probe into the ground.PlayNASA/JPL-Caltech
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A mission to drill beneath the surface of Mars was initially set to launch this month but it being postponed two years after the discovery of a vacuum leak in an area housing a key science instrument, according to NASA.

The leak on the Mars InSight probe was discovered in December and the mission was postponed. NASA on Wednesday announced a new launch window of May 2018.

The additional time will allow engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory more time to redesign a new vacuum enclosure for the spacecraft's seismometer, NASA officials said. The seismometer has sensors that are able to measure ground movements as small as half the radius of a hydrogen atom, according to NASA, making it a crucial tool for the space probe, which will be tasked with drilling into Mars' surface.

The trip to Mars will take six months, with the probe now scheduled to land in November 2018. The goal of the InSight mission is to drill into Mars' interior, allowing NASA scientists to better understand how rocky planets -- including Earth -- formed and evolved.

The mission includes an international science team, NASA said, with researchers from Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Poland, Spain, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States.