InSight Mars Lander

InSight Mars Lander  

InSight Lander Officially on its Way to Mars

NASA InSight Mars lander is the first spacecraft to study the interior structure - from crust to core - of the Red Planet.

Lockheed Martin Space continues its Mars heritage when the Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) spacecraft launched at 4:05 a.m. PT, May 5, aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 401 rocket. InSight has officially begun its six-month long journey to the Red Planet and is scheduled to arrive Nov. 26, 2018.

Landers have explored the surface of Mars in unique ways, but InSight, managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, will be the first mission to peer beneath the surface and take the vital signs of the planet. It will be the first mission to study the planet's interior by measuring its heat output and observing its rotational variations. It will use the seismic waves generated by Mars quakes and meteorite impacts to develop a map of the planet's deep interior. The resulting insight into Mars' formation will help mission scientists to better understand how other rocky planets, including Earth, evolved.

"No two Mars missions are alike and the excitement of landing on another planet never goes away," Stu Spath, InSight program manager and director of Deep Space Exploration at Lockheed Martin Space. "Our team is thrilled to have worked with JPL on this project. Initial communications obtained by our Flight Operations team indicate that all spacecraft subsystems are healthy and that we are past the first critical events of the mission."

Mission Overview

How did the rocky planets form? This is a question that other Mars missions haven’t yet explored…but InSight will do just that. InSight, which stands for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport, is NASA’s next Mars lander and is designed to explore the Martian interior.

Equipped with three primary instruments, the lander will take the first-ever in-depth look at the planet’s interior. The data will help:   

  • Determine the size, composition and state of the core of the planet
  • Analyze the thickness and structure of the crust
  • Determine the structure of the mantle
  • Investigate the thermal state of the interior
  • Measure the rate of internal seismic activity
  • Measure the rate of meteorite impacts on the Red Planet   

In addition, the spacecraft will use two secondary science instruments which will explore more than the interior. These instruments will study the external environment and measure the rotational variations of the planet. All together, the data will provide essential clues about the evolution of not just Mars, but also all the terrestrial planets.

The Spacecraft

Lockheed Martin is the InSight prime contractor and is responsible for the complete spacecraft system – cruise stage, aeroshell and the lander itself. Based on a proven spacecraft design from the successful 2007 Phoenix mission, InSight will incorporate the latest avionics technology as well as advanced science instruments.

The lander has to withstand a punishing entry into Mars’ atmosphere, where the protective heat shield will have to withstand temperatures of 2,800 degrees Fahrenheit. After that, it will use a parachute to reduce the rate of decent and then from there will use descent engines to slow down for a soft touchdown at just 5 ½  miles per hour – which is called propulsive landing. This will be the ninth aeroshell entry system Lockheed Martin has built for NASA to protect spacecraft on the dangerous journey to the Martian surface.

Quick Facts

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InSight will be the first interplanetary launch from the West Coast.
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The primary mission timeline will be one Martian year plus 40 Martian days.
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This mission is the 12th of NASA's Discovery Program for investigating our solar system with competitively selected, cost-capped missions.
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Lockheed Martin built NASA’s first Mars lander – Viking – in 1976, and have since built four landers and six orbiters at the Red Planet.

Photo Gallery: Flickr