NASA salvages Mars mission that should have launched by now

This August 2015 artist's rendering provided by NASA/JPL-Caltech depicts the InSight Mars lander studying the interior of Mars. The spacecraft was scheduled to launch for Mars in March 2016 but NASA said Tuesday, Dec. 22, that managers have suspended the launch because of an air leak in one of two prime science instruments, a seismometer which belongs to the French Space Agency. (NASA/JPL-Caltech via AP)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) – NASA’s next Mars mission is still alive.

The space agency said Wednesday it’s shooting for a 2018 launch of the Mars Insight spacecraft. The robotic lander was supposed to lift off this month, but was grounded in December by a leak in a French instrument. Managers say the instrument should be redesigned in time.

May 2018 represents the next available launch window. Mars windows arise just every two years.

InSight aims to study the interior of Mars. The sensors for the French seismometer need to operate in a vacuum chamber in order to measure subtle ground movements. The vacuum chamber was leaking.

It’s unknown how much the two-year delay will cost. NASA’s only other option was to kill the project.

Europe is launching its own Mars-landing mission Monday from Kazakhstan.

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