Science & Environment

Nasa suspends Mars mission over faulty instrument

An artist's image depicts the InSight spacecraft studying the interior of Mars Image copyright AP
Image caption The mission is designed to examine Mars' geology in depth

The US space agency, Nasa, has suspended the March launch of its next mission to Mars because of a fault in a key research instrument.

Nasa said a problem with a seismometer provided by the French space agency meant the launch could not go ahead.

It is feared the mission could now face a two-year delay.

The InSight spacecraft was scheduled to take off between 4-30 March and land on the Red Planet six months later to examine Mars' geology in depth.

Nasa said it had decided to call off the launch because the agency was unable to fix a leak affecting the seismometer, which required a vacuum seal to cope with harsh conditions on Mars.

The instrument is designed to measure ground movements.

"A decision on a path forward will be made in the coming months, but one thing is clear: Nasa remains fully committed to the scientific discovery and exploration of Mars," Nasa's John Grunsfeld was quoted as saying by the AFP news agency.

The next time the earth and Mars are favourably aligned for a launch will be in 2018.

The mission is also intended to monitor the temperature on Mars, as well as the variations in its orbit.

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