The InSight (Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport) lander has passed its last major environmental test ahead of a planned trip to Mars in May 2018.
The thermal vacuum testing – or TVAC – lasted two weeks and simulates the harsh, stressful environment of space.
"With InSight coming out of TVAC, the team has successfully completed the environmental testing phase and will now be finalizing launch preparations over the coming months," Scott Daniels, the InSight assembly, test and launch operations manager, told Space.com, which reported the news.
The lander was initially scheduled to launch in March of 2016 but, due to a leak in InSight's vacuum system, the launch was rescheduled for May 2018, which is the next time Mars and Earth would be close enough for the mission to take place. Once the InSight reaches Mars, it will send a probe deep beneath the Martian surface to take measurements and collect information on how the planet formed and evolved.
InSight is scheduled to launch during a 30-day window that begins on May 5th, 2018, and if all goes according to plan, should reach Mars towards the end of November of the same year. The mission will take place over one Mars year, or around two Earth years, and could be extended depending on the state of the lander and available funding.
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