20:46 GMT23 September 2020
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    A US mission to Mars set for March 2016 to explore the internal structure of the planet will be delayed two years because of a continued leak in its main scientific instrument, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) said in a news release.

    WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — The decision was taken after NASA scientists in the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California discovered during testing on Monday that the seismometer designed for the mission failed to hold a vacuum.

    "After thorough examination, NASA managers have decided to suspend the planned March 2016 launch of the Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) mission," the release stated on Tuesday.

    The seismometer is designed to measure ground movements as small as the diameter of an atom, and requires a vacuum seal around its three main sensors, the release explained. The instrument was provided by France’s Centre National d'Études Spatiales (CNES).

    NASA officials determined there was insufficient time to resolve another leak, and complete the work to ensure a successful mission in time for the March 4 to March 30, 2016 launch window.

    The next launch window will not occur for another 26 months, the release said.

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