CAPE CANAVERAL – [RAW]
NASA plans to repair a Mars spacecraft that was grounded in December because of a leak in its primary science instrument, putting the mission back on track for another launch attempt in 2018.
The spacecraft, a satellite known as InSight, was designed to study the deep interior of Mars, information that will help scientists figure out how the planet, and other rocky planets such as Earth, formed and evolved.
The space agency is reviewing how much the repair will cost, but the project’s lead scientist last week estimated the price tag would be about $US150 million ($A200 million) above the $US675 million already budgeted.
InSight missed its launch opportunity in March after scientists in December discovered that a pesky leak in its main science instrument had re-appeared.
That setback raised questions about whether NASA would cancel the mission, but agency managers said on Wednesday that the science goals were compelling and the plans for repairing the leak were sound.
The next time Earth and Mars will be properly aligned for InSight to launch is in May 2018.
The spacecraft would arrive at Mars in November 2018 to begin a two-year mission