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    NASA's next Mars lander passes big test ahead of May 2018 launch

    By Leonard David
    November 27, 2017, 4:07:06 PM EST

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    mars mission

    NASA's next Mars lander just passed a big test ahead of its planned May 2018 launch.

    The spacecraft, known as InSight (short for "Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport"), has just completed "thermal vac" testing here at a facility owned by its builder, Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co.

    Thermal vacuum testing (TVAC) simulates the harsh environment of space to appraise how the Mars-bound craft and its instruments operate under flight-like conditions.

    "Almost a two-week-long test, thermal vacuum testing is the most comprehensive and stressing test you can perform on a fully assembled spacecraft prior to its launch," said Scott Daniels, InSight assembly, test and launch operations (ATLO) manager at Lockheed Martin.

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