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InSight Lander.jpg
InSight lander (artist's rendering)
Major contractors Lockheed Martin Space Systems
Mission type Lander
Launch date March 8–27, 2016 [2]
Carrier rocket Atlas V 401[3][4]
Launch site Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, USA[3]
Mission duration 2 Earth years[5]
Mass ≈ 350 kg (770 lb)
Power Solar / NiH2 battery
Mars landing
Date 20 September 2016 (planned)
Main instruments Seismometer and heat flow probe

InSight is a robotic lander mission to Mars planned for launch in March 2016.[1] The name stands for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport.[5]

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 planetsMercury, 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.[5]

InSight was initially known as GEMS (Geophysical Monitoring Station), but changed its name in early 2012 at the request of NASA.[6] Out of 28 proposals from 2010,[7] it was one of the three Discovery Program finalists receiving US$3 million in May 2011 to develop a detailed concept study.[8] In August 2012, InSight was selected for development and launch.[1] Managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) with participation from scientists from several countries, the mission is cost-capped at US$425 million, not including launch vehicle funding.[9] On 19 May 2014, NASA announced that construction of the lander will begin.[10]


The mission further develops design heritage from the Phoenix Mars Lander.[11] 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).[5]


The launch is being managed by NASA's Launch Services Program. The launch is scheduled for March 4, 2016 and will be on an Atlas V 401 (4 meter fairing/zero (0) solid rocket boosters/single (1) engine Centaur (SEC)) from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, USA.[12] This is the first American interplanetary mission to launch from the West Coast (i.e. first interplanetary not from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station/Kennedy Space Center).

Scientific payload[edit]

InSight's science payload will consist of two main instruments:

  • 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".[16][17][18][19] 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.[16][17][18][19] It trails a tether containing precise temperature sensors every 30 cm to measure the temperature profile of the subsurface.[16]
  • Additionally, the Rotation and Interior Structure Experiment (RISE) led by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), will use the lander's X-band radio to provide precise measurements of planetary rotation to better understand the inside of Mars.[20] X-band radio tracking, capable of an accuracy under 2 cm, will build on previous Viking program and Mars Pathfinder data.[16] 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.[16] 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.[16] This would increase the understanding on the formation of terrestrial planets (e.g. Earth) and rocky exoplanets.[16]
  • A magnetometer will measure magnetic disturbances caused by the Martian ionosphere.[21]
Mars InSight Lander - launch planned for March 2016 (artist annotated version; 26 March 2014).

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.[23] 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.[23]

A color camera was also considered, but there is a lack of funding for this item.[22] However, in one case when NASA could not afford a color camera it was donated.[24] Imaging cameras have been victimized by funding cuts in other cases as well.[25] For example, when Mars rovers were being developed, PanCam had to be scaled back.[25] NASA had previously developed "pushbroom" type panoramic camera that would use a one-dimensional linear array rotated in circle by motor.[25] Another instrument that was considered was an electromagnetic sounder to provide data on crustal thickness, ground water, and on the mantle lithosphere.[26]

Technology to clean dust off the solar panels was considered for Mars Exploration Rover's development.[27] In the years since their development others have proposed ways of cleaning off panels.[28] The effects of Martian surface dust on solar cells was studied in the 1990s by the Materials Adherence Experiment on Mars Pathfinder.[29][30] NASA has studied self-clean electrodynamic screens to clean dust from solar panels.[31] Another approach to payload augmentation is how Mars Polar Lander included the Deep Space 2 probes, which were actually part of the technology oriented New Millennium Program instead of the Mars Surveyor Program.[32] InSight may represent possible piggy-back opportunity for MetNet.[33] It may also be a chance to capitalize on previously funded technology development such as the Urey Mars Organic and Oxidant Detector and Mars Organic Molecule Analyzer .[34]


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.[35]

Interiors of Earth, Mars and the Moon (artist's concept)

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.[35] 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.[36] 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.[36]

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.[37] 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.[22] 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.[22]

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.[35]

Landing site[edit]

Phoenix lander art, similar to InSight

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.[38] 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.[39]

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.[39]

Team and participation[edit]

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, Spain and the United Kingdom.[40]

Mars Exploration Rover project scientist Bruce Banerdt is the principal investigator for the InSight mission and the lead scientist for the SEIS instrument.[41] 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,[42] is the lead for InSight's HP3 instrument. Sami Asmar, an expert in advanced studies using radio waves,[43] is the lead for InSight's RISE investigation. The InSight mission team also includes project manager Tom Hoffman and deputy project manager Henry Stone.[40]

Science team:[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e NASA will send robot drill to Mars in 2016, Washington Post, By Brian Vastag, Monday, August 20
  2. ^ InSight … into the Early Evolution of Terrestrial PlanetsJPL, NASA
  3. ^ a b Clark, Stephen (19 December 2013). "Mars lander to launch from California on Atlas 5 in 2016". Spaceflight Now. Retrieved 2013-12-20. 
  4. ^ "NASA Awards Launch Services Contract for InSight Mission". NASA. 2013. Retrieved 2014-01-11. 
  5. ^ a b c d "InSight - Mission Overview". JPL. NASA. 2012. Retrieved 2012-08-22. 
  6. ^ JPL changes name of Mars mission proposal - Glendale NewsPress
  7. ^ NASA/JPL - New NASA Mission To take First Look Deep Inside Mars
  8. ^ "NASA Selects Investigations For Future Key Planetary Mission". NASA. Retrieved 6 May 2011. 
  9. ^ "NASA picks project shortlist for next Discovery mission". TG Daily. 9 May 2011. Retrieved 2011-05-20.  |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help)
  10. ^ Webster, Guy; Brown, Dwayne; Napier, Gary (19 May 2014). "Construction to Begin on 2016 NASA Mars Lander". NASA. Retrieved 2014-05-20. 
  11. ^ NASA -New Insight on Mars Expected From new NASA Mission (2012)
  12. ^ "NASA Awards Launch Services Contract for InSight Mission". NASA. Retrieved 11 December 2014. 
  13. ^ "NASA and French Space Agency Sign Agreement for Mars Mission". NASA (Jet Propulsion Laboratory). 10 February 2014. Retrieved 2014-02-11.  |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help)
  14. ^ Francis, Matthew (21 August 2012). "New probe to provide InSight into Mars' interior". Ars Technica. Retrieved 21 August 2012. 
  15. ^ "The GEMS (GEophysical Monitoring Station) SEISmometer". 
  16. ^ a b c d e f g h i - October 2012[dead link]
  17. ^ a b "Mars Exploration Program- New Insight on Mars Expected From New NASA Mission". NASA - JPL. 2012. Retrieved 2012-08-23. 
  18. ^ a b "Measuring Heat Flow on Mars: The Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package on GEMS". 
  19. ^ a b JPL begins work on two new missions to Mars May 22, 2013.
  20. ^ "Geodesy on GEMS (GEophysical Monitoring Station)". 
  21. ^ a b David, Leonard (August 15, 2014). "NASA's Next Mars Lander Will Peer Deep Into Red Planet's History: Here's How". 
  22. ^ a b c d B.B. - InSight Project Status (2013)index
  23. ^ a b "InSight - Technology". NASA - JPL. 2012. Retrieved 2012-08-20. 
  24. ^ NASA Science Corner – MARDI
  25. ^ a b c S. Squyres - Roving Mars: Spirit, Opportunity, and the Exploration of the Red Planet
  26. ^ Geophysical Network Mission for Mars
  27. ^ Why don't the Mars rovers have dust wipers? - New Scientist (2008)
  28. ^ [1]
  29. ^ Landis, G.A.; Jenkins, P.P. (29 September – 3 October 1997), "Dust on Mars: Materials Adherence Experiment results from Mars Pathfinder", Photovoltaic Specialists Conference, 1997., Conference Record of the Twenty-Sixth IEEE: 865–869, doi:10.1109/PVSC.1997.654224, ISBN 0-7803-3767-0. 
  30. ^ The Rover Team: J. R. Matijevic, J. Crisp, D. B. Bickler, R. S. Banes, B. K. Cooper, H. J. Eisen, J. Gensler, A. Haldemann, F. Hartman, K. A. Jewett, L. H. Matthies, S. L. Laubach, A. H. Mishkin, J. C. Morrison, T. T. Nguyen, A. R. Sirota, H. W. Stone, S. Stride, L. F. Sword, J. A. Tarsala, A. D. Thompson, M. T. Wallace, R. Welch, E. Wellman, B. H. Wilcox, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA 91109, USA. D. Ferguson, P. Jenkins, J. Kolecki, G. A. Landis, D. Wilt, NASA Lewis Research Center, Cleveland, OH 44135, USA.; Crisp; Bickler; Banes; Cooper; Eisen; Gensler; Haldemann; Hartman; Jewett; Matthies; Laubach; Mishkin; Morrison; Nguyen; Sirota; Stone; Stride; Sword; Tarsala; Thompson; Wallace; Welch; Wellman; Wilcox; Ferguson; Jenkins; Kolecki; Landis et al. (5 December 1997), "Characterization of the Martian Surface Deposits by the Mars Pathfinder Rover, Sojourner", Science 278 (5344): 1765–1768, Bibcode:1997Sci...278.1765M, doi:10.1126/science.278.5344.1765, PMID 9388171, retrieved 9 January 2012. 
  31. ^ "UALR Particulate Science Research". University of Arkansas at Little Rock. 2013. Retrieved 20 February 2014. 
  32. ^ "Mars Climate Orbiter/Mars Polar Lander Mission Overview". JPL. NASA. Retrieved 20 February 2014. 
  33. ^ Harri, A. M.; J. Leinonen, S. Merikallio, M. Paton, H.Haukka, J. Polkko, Prof. V. Linkin, V. Lipatov, Director General K. Pichkadze, A. Polyakov, M. Uspensky, Prof. L. Vasquez, Dr. H. Guerrero, D. Crisp, R. Haberle, S. Calcutt, C. Wilson, Prof. P. Taylor, Prof. C. Lange, M. Daly, L. Richter, R. Jaumann, J.-P. Pommereau, F. Forget, Ph. Lognonne, J. Zarnecki (2012). "Future Plans for MetNet Lander Mars Missions". Geophysical Research Abstracts 14 (EGU2012–8224). Retrieved 18 February 2014. 
  34. ^ NASA
  35. ^ a b c "InSight: Mission". Mission Website. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Retrieved 2 December 2011. 
  36. ^ a b "InSight: Science". Mission Website. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Retrieved 2 December 2011. 
  37. ^ Kremer, Ken (March 2, 2012). "NASAs Proposed ‘InSight’ Lander would Peer to the Center of Mars in 2016". Universe Today. Retrieved 2012-03-27. 
  38. ^ "NASA searches for (literally) boring Mars landing site". USA Today. 4 September 2013. Retrieved 2013-09-05.  |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help)
  39. ^ a b "NASA Evaluates Four Candidate Sites for 2016 Mars Mission". NASA. 4 September 2013. Retrieved 4 September 2013. 
  40. ^ a b "InSight: People". Mission Website. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Retrieved 2 December 2011. 
  41. ^ "JPL Science: People - Bruce Banerdt". Website. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. 
  42. ^ "JPL Sciences: People - Sue Smrekar". Website. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Retrieved 2 December 2011. 
  43. ^ "JPL Science and Technology: Sami Asmar". Website. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. 

External links[edit]