InSight lander (artist's rendering)
|Major contractors||Lockheed Martin Space Systems|
|Launch date||March 8-27, 2016 |
|Mission duration||2 Earth years|
|Mass||≈ 350 kg (770 lb)|
|Power||Solar / NiH2 battery|
|Main instruments||Seismometer and heat flow probe|
The mission's objective is to place a stationary lander equipped with a seismometer and heat flow probe on the surface of Mars to study its early geological evolution. This would bring new understanding of the Solar System’s terrestrial planets — Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars — and Earth’s Moon. By reusing technology from the Mars Phoenix lander, which successfully landed on Mars in 2008, it is expected that the cost and risk will be reduced.
InSight was initially known as GEMS (Geophysical Monitoring Station), but changed its name in early 2012 at the request of NASA. Out of 28 proposals from 2010, it was one of the three Discovery Program finalists receiving US$3 million in May 2011 to develop a detailed concept study. In August 2012, InSight was selected for development and launch. Managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) with participation from scientists around the world, the mission is cost-capped at US$425 million, not including launch vehicle funding.
The mission further develops design heritage from the Phoenix Mars Lander. Because InSight is planned to be powered by a photovoltaic system, it would land near the equator to enable a projected lifetime of 2 years (or 1 Mars year).
InSight's science payload would consist of two main instruments:
- The Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) will take precise measurements of quakes and other internal activity on Mars to better understand the planet's history and structure. SEIS is provided by the French Space Agency (CNES), with the participation of the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris (IPGP), the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH), the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS), Imperial College, Institut Supérieur de l'Aéronautique et de l'Espace (ISAE) and JPL. The seismometer is a sensitive broad-band instrument designed to detect sources including atmospheric excitation and tidal forces from Phobos.
- The Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3) instrument, provided by the German Space Agency (DLR), is a self-penetrating heat flow probe —nicknamed "the mole". Also called a "self-hammering nail", it is being designed to burrow up to 5 m (16 ft) below the surface to measure how much heat is coming from Mars' core, and thus help reveal the planet's thermal history. It trails a tether containing precise temperature sensors every 30 cm to measure the temperature profile of the subsurface.
- Rotation and Interior Structure Experiment (RISE) uses the spacecraft's radio to provide precise measurements of planetary rotation to better understand the inside of Mars. X-band radio tracking, capable of an accuracy under 2 cm, will build on previous Viking and Pathfinder data. The previous data sets allowed the core size to be constrained, but with a third data set from InSight, the nutation amplitude can be determined. Once spin axis direction, precession, and nutation amplitudes are better understood, it should be possible to calculate the size and density of the Martian core and mantle. This would increase the understanding on the formation of terrestrial planets (e.g. earth) and rocky exoplanets.
A camera mounted on the lander's arm can capture black and white images of the instruments on the lander's deck and a 3-D view of the ground where the seismometer and heat flow probe will be placed. It will then be used to help engineers and scientists guide the deployment of the instruments to the ground. With a 45-degree field of view, the camera will also provide a panoramic view of the terrain surrounding the landing site. A second similar camera, with a wide-angle 120-degree field of view lens will be mounted under the edge of the lander's deck and will provide a complementary view of the instrument deployment area.
Some payload augmentations by the summer of 2013 included a high-resolution (finer than 10 mPa) pressure sensor, REMS wind sensors, a ground temperature radiometer, and a magnetometer. The seismometer (SEIS) needs to detect ground movement at a resolution of about half the radius of a hydrogen atom. While this level of sensitivity has been tested, it means carefully mitigating noise from the planet and lander.
InSight will place a single stationary lander on Mars to study its deep interior and address a fundamental issue of planetary and Solar System science: understanding the processes that shaped the rocky planets of the inner Solar System (including Earth) more than four billion years ago.
InSight’s primary objective is to study the earliest evolutionary history of the processes that shaped Mars. By studying the size, thickness, density and overall structure of Mars' core, mantle and crust, as well as the rate at which heat escapes from the planet's interior, InSight will provide a glimpse into the evolutionary processes of all of the rocky planets in the inner Solar System. The rocky inner planets share a common ancestry that begins with a process called accretion. As the body increases in size, its interior heats up and evolves to become a terrestrial planet, containing a core, mantle and crust. Despite this common ancestry, each of the terrestrial planets is later shaped and molded through a poorly understood process called differentiation. InSight mission's goal is to improve understanding of this process and, by extension, terrestrial evolution, by measuring the planetary building blocks shaped by differentiation: a terrestrial planet's core, mantle and crust.
The mission will determine if there is any seismic activity, the amount of heat flow from the interior, the size of Mars' core and whether the core is liquid or solid. The mission's secondary objective is to conduct an in-depth study of geophysics, tectonic activity and meteorite impacts on Mars, which could provide knowledge about such processes on Earth. Data on crustal layering, seismic distribution, and if the core is liquid or solid should be all new. Crust thickness, mantle velocity, core radius and density, and seismic activity should experience a measured accuracy increase on the order 3X to 10X compared to current data.
In terms of fundamental processes shaping planetary formation, Mars contains the most in-depth and accurate historical record, because it is big enough to have undergone the earliest accretion and internal heating processes that shaped the terrestrial planets, but small enough to have retained the signature of those processes.
As InSight's science goals are not related to any particular surface of Mars, potential landing sites were chosen on the basis of practicality. Candidate sites needed to be: near the equator of Mars to provide sufficient sunlight for the solar panels year round, have a low elevation to allow for sufficient atmospheric braking during EDL, flat, relatively rock-free to reduce the probability of complications during landing, and soft enough terrain to allow the heat flow probe to penetrate well into the ground. An optimal area that meets all these requirements is Elysium Planitia and so all 22 initial potential landing sites were located in this area. The only two other areas on the equator and at low elevation, Isidis Planitia and Valles Marineris, are too rocky. In addition, Valles Marineris has too steep a gradient to allow safe landing.
In September 2013, the initial 22 potential landing sites were narrowed to 4, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter will then be used to gain more information on each of the 4 potential sites before a final decision is made.
Team and participation
The InSight science and engineering team includes scientists and engineers from many disciplines, countries and organizations. The science team assigned to InSight includes scientists from institutions in the U.S., France, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Japan, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
Mars Exploration Rover project scientist Bruce Banerdt is the principal investigator for the InSight mission and the lead scientist for the SEIS instrument. Suzanne Smrekar, whose research focuses on the thermal evolution of planets and who has done extensive testing and development on instruments designed to measure the thermal properties and heat flow on other planets, is the lead for InSight's HP3 instrument. Sami Asmar, an expert in advanced studies using radio waves, is the lead for InSight's RISE investigation. The InSight mission team also includes project manager Tom Hoffman and deputy project manager Henry Stone.
- S. Asmar, JPL
- PI: B. Banerdt, JPL
- D. Banfield, Cornell University
- L. Boschi, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH)
- U. Christensen, Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS)
- V. Dehant, Royal Observatory of Belgium (ROB)
- RISE PI: B. Folkner, JPL
- D. Giardini, ETH
- W. Goetz, MPS
- M. Golombek, JPL
- M. Grott, DLR
- T. Hudson, JPL
- C. Johnson, University of British Columbia (UBC)
- G. Kargl, Space Research Institute (IWF)
- N. Kobayashi, JAXA
- SEIS PI: P. Lognonné, Paris Institute of Earth Physics (IPGP)
- J. Maki, JPL
- D. Mimoun, Institut Supérieur de l'Aéronautique et de l'Espace (ISAE)
- A. Mocquet, University of Nantes
- P. Morgan, Colorado Geological Survey
- M. Panning, University of Florida
- T. Pike, Imperial College, London
- Dep. PI: S. Smrekar, JPL
- HP3 PI: T. Spohn, DLR
- J. Tromp, Princeton University
- T. van Zoest, DLR
- R. Weber, Marshall Spaceflight Center
- M. Wieczorek, IPGP
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to InSight.|
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