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""InSight MarCO Transparent.png
""InSight Lander Transparent.png
Top: Artist's rendering of the MarCO CubeSats
Bottom: Artist's rendering of the InSight lander
Names Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport
Geophysical Monitoring Station
Discovery 12
Mission type "Mars lander
Operator "NASA / "JPL
Website mars.nasa.gov/insight/
Mission duration Planned: 2 years[1]
Spacecraft properties
Manufacturer "Lockheed Martin Space Systems
Launch mass 360 kg (794 lb)[2]
Dimensions Deployed: 6.1 × 2.0 × 1.4 m (20 × 6.5 × 4.5 ft)[2]
Power 450 "W, "solar / "Li-ion battery
Start of mission
Launch date 5 May 2018 (2018-05-05)[3]
Rocket "Atlas V 401[4]
Launch site "Vandenberg Air Force Base[4]
Contractor "United Launch Alliance
"Mars lander
Landing date 26 November 2018[5]
Landing site "Elysium Planitia[6][7]
4°30′N 135°00′E / 4.5°N 135.0°E / 4.5; 135.0 (InSight landing site)

""InSight Mission Logo (transparent).png

"Lucy →

InSight is a "robotic Mars "lander designed to study the interior and subsurface of Mars, which would in turn help scientists to understand the Earth and Solar System history.[8] The mission is planned to launch in May 2018 and land on the surface of Mars in November 2018,[9] where it will deploy a "seismometer and a burrowing heat probe. It will also perform a radio science experiment to study the internal structure of Mars.[10]

The lander was manufactured in the 2010s by "Lockheed Martin Space Systems and was originally planned for launch in March 2016.[8][11] Due to the failure of its SEIS instrument prior to launch, NASA announced in December 2015 that the mission had been postponed, and in March 2016, launch was rescheduled for 5 May 2018. The name is a "backronym for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport.[1]

InSight's objective is to place a stationary "lander equipped with a "seismometer and "heat transfer probe on the surface of Mars to study the planet's early geological evolution. This could bring new understanding of the Solar System's "terrestrial planets — "Mercury, "Venus, "Earth, "Mars — and the 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.[1]

Following a persistent vacuum failure in the main scientific instrument, the launch window was missed, and the InSight spacecraft was returned to Lockheed Martin's facility in Denver, Colorado, for storage. NASA officials decided in March 2016 to spend an estimated US$150 million to delay launching InSight to May 2018.[3] This would allow time for the seismometer issue to be fixed, although it increased the cost from the previous US$675 million to a total of $830 million.[12]


History and background[edit]

InSight comes together with the backshell and surface lander being joined, 2015.

InSight was initially known as GEMS (Geophysical Monitoring Station), but its name was changed in early 2012 at the request of NASA.[13] Out of 28 proposals from 2010,[14] it was one of the three "Discovery Program finalists receiving US$3 million in May 2011 to develop a detailed concept study.[15] In August 2012, InSight was selected for development and launch.[8] 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.[16]

NASA began construction of the lander on 19 May 2014,[17] with general testing starting in 27 May 2015.[18]

A persistent vacuum leak in the "CNES-lead seismometer known as the "Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) led NASA to postpone the planned launch in March 2016 to May 2018. NASA's "Jet Propulsion Laboratory took over development of the vacuum container for SEIS, with CNES handling instrument integration and test activities.[19] The difficulty of an interplanetary seismometer was experienced by NASA when the Viking 1 lander's seismometer did not deploy properly in 1976.[20] The seismometers on Viking were mounted on the lander, which meant that it also picked up vibrations from various operations of the lander and by the wind.[21] The seismometer readings were used to estimate a Martian geological "crust thickness between 14 and 18 km (8.7 and 11.2 mi) at the Viking 2 lander site.[22] The Viking 2 seismometer detected pressure from the Mars winds complementing the meteorology results.[22][23] There was one candidate for a possible Marsquake, although it was not confirmed due to the limitations of the design, especially due to noise from other sources like wind. The wind data did prove useful in its own right, and despite the limitations of the data, widespread and large seismic events could be ruled out (large Marsquakes were not detected).[24]

Seismometers were also left on the Moon by the "Apollo 12, "14, "15 and "16 missions and provided many insights into "lunar seismology, including the discovery of moonquakes.[25] The Apollo seismic network, which was operated until 1977, detected at least 28 moonquakes up to 5.5 on the "richter scale.[26]

Radio Doppler measurements were taken with Viking and twenty years later with "Mars Pathfinder, and in each case the "axis of rotation of Mars was calculated. By combining this data the core size was constrained, because the change in axis of rotation over 20 years allowed a precession rate and from that the planet's "moment of inertia to be calculated.[27]


When it was delayed, the rest of the InSight spacecraft was returned to Lockheed Martin's factory in Colorado for storage, and the "Atlas V rocket intended to launch the spacecraft was reassigned to the "WorldView-4 mission.[28]

NASA officials announced on 9 March 2016 that InSight would be delayed until the 2018 launch window at an estimated cost of US$150 million.[3][5] The spacecraft is scheduled to launch on 5 May 2018 for a Mars landing on 26 November; the flight plan remains unchanged, and launch will take place aboard an Atlas V rocket from the "Vandenberg Air Force Base.[3][5] NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory has been tasked with redesigning and building a new vacuum enclosure for the SEIS instrument, while CNES will conduct instrument integration and testing.[19][29]

The second name chip, inscribed with 1.6 million names, is placed on InSight in January 2018.

On 22 November 2017 InSight completed testing in a thermal vacuum, also known as TVAC testing, where the spacecraft is put in simulated space conditions with reduced pressure and various thermal loads.[30] On 23 January 2018 its solar panels were deployed and tested, and a second silicon chip containing 1.6 million names from the public was added to the lander.[31]

On 28 February 2018 InSight was shipped from Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver to Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, by a "C-17 cargo aircraft to begin final preparations for launch.[32]


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.[33]

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.[33] 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.[34] 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.[34]

The mission will determine if there is any "seismic activity, measure the amount of heat flow from the interior, estimate the size of Mars' "core and whether the core is liquid or solid.[35] This data would be the first of its kind on Mars.[36] It is also expected that frequent meteor airbursts (10–200 detectable events per year for InSight) will provide additional seismo-acoustic signals to probe the interior of Mars.[37] The mission's secondary objective is to conduct an in-depth study of "geophysics, "tectonic activity and the effect of "meteorite impacts on Mars, which could provide knowledge about such processes on Earth. 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.[36]

In terms of fundamental processes shaping planetary formation, it is thought that 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 signs of those processes.[33]


The mission further develops design heritage from the 2008 "Phoenix Mars Lander.[38] Because InSight is powered by a "solar panels, it will land near the equator to enable optimum power for a projected lifetime of 2 years (or 1 Mars year).[1] InSight is designed to be launched by the Atlas V rocket; the mission will include two CubeSats that will launch with InSight but will fly separately to Mars.[39]

Lander specifications[edit]

360 kg (794 lb)[2]
About 6.1 m (20 ft) wide with solar panels deployed. The science deck is about 2.0 m (6.5 ft) deep and 1.4 m (4.5 ft) high.[2]
Power is generated by two round "solar panels, each 2.15 m (7.1 ft) in diameter and consisting of SolAero "ZTJ triple-junction solar cells made of "InGaP/"InGaAs/"Ge arranged on "Orbital ATK UltraFlex arrays. After touchdown on the Martian surface, the arrays are deployed by opening up like a "folding fan.[40][41]


InSight lander with labeled instruments
Testing of the lander's robotic arm that will deploy the "seismometer
Laser retroreflector on InSight's deck

InSight's science "payload consists of two main instruments, SEIS and HP3, with additional supporting instruments and systems.

The SEIS instrument is supported by a suite of meteorological tools to characterize atmospheric disturbances that might affect the experiment. These include a "vector magnetometer provided by "UCLA that will measure magnetic disturbances such as those caused by the Martian ionosphere; a suite of air temperature, wind speed and wind direction sensors based on the Spanish/Finnish "Rover Environmental Monitoring Station; and a "barometer from "JPL.[49][27]
The HP3 instrument is supported by an infrared "radiometer measuring surface temperatures, contributed by DLR and based on the MARA radiometer for the "Hayabusa2 mission.[27][53][54]
Phoenix landing site panorama. This "father" spacecraft design has many similarities to InSight. It landed in the north polar region of Mars in 2008, while InSight is targeting a zone near the equator.


The launch is being managed by NASA's "Launch Services Program. InSight was originally scheduled for launch on 4 March 2016 on an "Atlas V 401 (4 meter fairing/zero (0) "solid rocket boosters/single (1) engine "Centaur) from "Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, U.S.,[62] but was called off in December 2015 due to the vacuum issue with the SEIS instrument.[63][64][65]

The rescheduled launch window runs from 5 May to 8 June 2018, and remains scheduled for an Atlas V 401 launch vehicle (AV-078) out of Vandenberg Air Force Base.[66] This will be the first American "interplanetary mission to launch from California.[62]

The journey to Mars will take 6.5 months across 484 million km (301 million mi) for a late-November 2018 touchdown. If it lands successfully, a two-month-long deployment phase would commence as part of its two year (about one Mars year) prime mission.[57][9]

Planned landing site[edit]

Phoenix landing art, similar to InSight

As InSight's science goals are not related to any particular surface feature 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, so all 22 initial potential landing sites were located in this area.[67] 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.[6]

In September 2013, the initial 22 potential landing sites were narrowed down to 4, and the "Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter was then used to gain more information on each of the 4 potential sites before a final decision was made.[6][68] Each site consists of a landing ellipse that measures about 130 by 27 km (81 by 17 mi).[69] In March 2017, scientists from the "Jet Propulsion Laboratory announced that the landing site had been selected. It is located in western Elysium Planitia at 4°30′N 135°54′E / 4.5°N 135.9°E / 4.5; 135.9 (InSight landing site).[70] The landing site is about 600 km (370 mi) from where the "Curiosity rover is operating in "Gale Crater.[71]

All four possible landing sites are on "Elysium Planitia; this landing ellipse is one of them, located at 4°30′N 136°00′E / 4.5°N 136°E / 4.5; 136.
Image footprints by HiRise on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter for studying the planned Insight landing ellipse. From east to west the scale is about 160 km (100 mi)

Team and participation[edit]

InSight lander is loaded on to an aircraft in December 2015 for transport to California

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.[72]

"Mars Exploration Rover project scientist W. Bruce Banerdt is the "principal investigator for the InSight mission and the lead scientist for the SEIS instrument.[73] 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,[74] is the lead for InSight's HP3 instrument. Sami Asmar, an expert in advanced studies using radio waves,[75] is the lead for InSight's RISE investigation. The InSight mission team also includes project manager Tom Hoffman and deputy project manager Henry Stone.[72]

Major contributing agencies and institutions:[57]

National agencies:

Contributing institutions:

Name chips[edit]

The first name chip for InSight

As part of its public outreach, NASA organized a program where members of the public were able to have their name sent to Mars aboard InSight. Due to its launch delay, two rounds of sign-ups were conducted totaling 2.4 million names:[76][77] 826,923 names were registered in 2015[78] and a further 1.6 million names were added in 2017.[79] An electron beam was used to etch letters only ​11000 the width of a human "hair onto 8 mm (0.3 in) "silicon wafers.[78] The first chip was installed on the lander in November 2015 and the second on 23 January 2018.[78][79]


Flight hardware of Mars Cube One (MarCO)
CubeSats released before Mars InSight landing (artist concept)

The "Mars Cube One (MarCO) spacecraft, a set of two 6U "CubeSats, will piggyback with the InSight mission to help relay communications during the probe's "entry, descent and landing (EDL) phase.[80][81] The two 6U CubeSats, named "MarCO" A and B, are identical.[82] They measure 30 cm × 20 cm × 10 cm (11.8 in × 7.9 in × 3.9 in) and will fly as a pair for redundancy. They will not enter orbit but fly past Mars during the EDL phase of the mission and relay InSight's telemetry in real time.[83][84] MarCO is a technology capability demonstration of a communications relay system.

The Atlas V Booster will launch the MarCO CubeSats together with the InSight cruise stage, but the two CubeSats will separate from the cruise stage after launch and fly their own trajectory to Mars.[39] This is notably different from the twin "Deep Space 2 probes, which were attached to the "Mars Polar Lander cruise stage on its way to Mars. Near Mars, the Deep Space 2 probes separated for their mini-mission, but they were never heard from, and Mars Polar Lander was lost on landing ("Mars Global Surveyor was in orbit for communication at that time).

Mars map[edit]

InSight landing zone target with other NASA landing zones

See also[edit]


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