The leak at NASA's main scientific tool, the InSight seismological mission to Mars, forced the agency to reconsider its launch date in March and postpone it.
The nine-inch vacuum sphere, which stores sensitive seismic sensors, has suffered from a series of leaks since August. The French space agency CNES, which built the device, felt that it was able to solve the problem. But during testing at extremely low temperatures on Monday, the sphere leaked again.
“We just don’t have enough time,” said NASA administrator John Gransfeld.
“We tried very hard to solve the problem,” added Mark Pircher, director of CNES. "The sensitivity of our seismometer is very, very high, but it should work in a vacuum, but this is not happening yet." InSight is equipped with three scientific instruments to carefully study the seismic activity on Mars. The measurements are intended to give scientists the first detailed understanding of how rocky bodies like Earth and Mars have been formed and developed over time.
Mars and Earth line up every 26 months and this is the perfect time to launch. So NASA needs to hurry by May 2018 if they want to send this mission to the Red Planet.