InSight Mars Lander

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.

InSight Solar Array

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.

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