Astronomy News

Mars and InSight

The launch of NASA’s next mission to Mars named Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) is going to be in 2018. The launch window opens on 05 May 2018.

The InSight mission is not a rover mission but what InSight lacks in mobility it makes up for with ambition by a lot.

After it lands successfully two solar panels will unfold like paper fans, the lander spans about 20 feet (6 meters). Within weeks after the landing InSight will use a robotic arm to place its two main instruments directly and permanently onto the Martian ground.

The two key instruments are pretty amazing. The first is a seismometer, supplied by France’s space agency, CNES, with collaboration from the United States, the United Kingdom, Switzerland and Germany. Shielded from wind and with sensitivity fine enough to detect ground movements half the diameter of a hydrogen atom, it will record seismic waves from “marsquakes” or meteor impacts that reveal information about the planet’s interior layers.

The second is a heat probe, designed to hammer itself to a depth of 10 feet (3 meters) or more and measure the amount of energy coming from the planet’s deep interior. The heat probe is supplied by the German Aerospace Center, DLR, with the self-hammering mechanism from Poland.

Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech