NASA’s InSight Mars lander spacecraft in a Lockheed Martin clean room near Denver. As part of a series of deployment tests, the spacecraft was commanded to deploy its solar arrays in the clean room to test and verify the exact process that it will use on the surface of Mars.
As one of three planets in the habitable zone of our sun, Mars is ripe for study. While Venus is similar in size to Earth, its atmospheric composition is such that anything we try to send down to the surface gets crushed within minutes.
This makes Mars the best place, outside of Earth, itself, to send probes and landers. And over the decades, we’ve sent many spacecrafts to Mars to study the surface history of the planet by examining canyons, rocks, soil, and weather patterns.
But soon, scientists at NASA are going to go “in depth” in their research of Mars. Launched on March 5th, the first NASA spacecraft to venture to the Red Planet since the Curiosity Rover arrived in 2012 will touch down on November 26th.
Short for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport, the lander is designed to study the crust, mantle, and core of the planet.
By studying the interior structure of Mars, scientists will be able to get information about the early formation of rocky planets, like those in our inner solar system.
Insight will be measuring tectonic activity, as well as meteorite impacts.
You’ll remember that in recent news, there was controversy over an icy cloud formation over the summit of Arsia Mons that some believed was actually a volcanic eruption in progress. InSight will answer whether any volcanic activity has occurred in recent decades.
The InSight lander is being followed to Mars by two smaller spacecraft called CubeSats, according to NASA. Mars Cube One (MarCo) will be the first deep-space mission for the CubeSats.
As MarCo makes its scheduled flyby of Mars, it will attempt to relay data from the InSight lander as it enters the planet’s atmosphere and lands.
To ask mission experts live questions about the mission, you can use #askNASA.