Main research instrument failure holds InSight Mars mission for about two years to next launch window.
NASA announced about postponing launching of Mars InSight lander to 2018. During extreme cold temperatures tests on Monday, 21 December 2015, one of main instruments – SEIS seismometer – failed to keep vacuum which is necessary for seismometer to operate. It was second leak this year, but last time CNES team was able to fix it. Unfortunately this time CNES will not manage to fix and test SEIS before March launch window. SEIS was result of cooperation various research centers in Europe under leadership of CNES, which was also manufacturing and assembling SEIS (participating institutions were among others: Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris (IPGP), Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH), Swiss Space Office, European Space Agency, Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS), DLR, Imperial College (with association of United Kingdom Space Agency)). NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory was also involved.
SEIS is precision seismometer for measuring seismic activity on Mars. It was planned to deploy SEIS from lander to surface for gathering data. Main part of SEIS is pendulum mounted with spring. Whole mechanism is placed in vacuum in sphere shaped case. After deploying on Mars surface, probe will detect every movement of the surface by tracing movement of the pendulum. SEIS is design to operate under commands received from Earth (operator is able to uplink commands for SEIS to switch between modes for example to save energy during Mars winter). Gathered data will be transmitted to CDMS, onboard computer of the lander, and after compression downlinked to Earth. SEIS weighs 3kg and for remaining operational need 1W of energy.
Mars Insight (Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport) was one of main NASA research programs over Mars. It was focused on gathering data on seismic activity of Mars and measuring heat transport from core of the planet to surface. It was planned to use gathered data in studies over Mars surface evolution. Program was cooperation of NASA, French space agency CNES and German DLR. CNES and DLR were mainly responsible for equipping in research instruments Mars probe lander. Lander was designed by one of NASA research centers, Jet Propulsion Laboratory and manufactured by Lockheed Martin. About planned mission, which is now postponed for next launch window in 2018 You can read here.