NASA has suspended its next mission to Mars after problems with a French-built seismological instrument could not be fixed in time for the scheduled launch. The mission, a lander called InSight that was to listen for tremors on Mars as a way of understanding the planet’s interior, will not launch in March 2016, the agency said today. NASA has not announced a new launch date, but because of the relative orbits of Mars and Earth, the agency will have to wait at least 26 months before it can try to launch again.
A new launch date is not a forgone conclusion. The agency will review designs to fix the problem with the instrument, and also estimate the cost of putting the mission on ice for 2 years—and whether that can be paid for. It could take a couple months to reach that decision point, NASA science chief John Grunsfeld said during a teleconference today. “We either decide to go forward, or we don’t.”