The InSight lander will study Mars’ deep layers
(Mirror Daily, United States) – Just one step closer, as NASA’s Mars spacecraft was shipped to California and, in one way, completed the first leg of its journey to the Red Planet. NASA’s InSight lander will be launching off into space and travelling to Mars next year. It will aim to provide invaluable information about the rocky surface of the foreign planet.
Lockheed Martin Space System, who built and tested the spacecraft, have shipped the lander on December 16th from Colorado to California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base. There, the spacecraft will see additional testing before it’s deemed as space worthy and ready to head off on its exciting mission to Mars. First, it will require a few more trials to avoid any potential technical errors.
It will undergo final preparations before it will be launched on a United Launch Alliance rocket, Atlas V, at some point between March 4th and March 30th of next year. It’s set to head out on an excursion within space, and travel as far as the Red Planet in 6 months after blast off. That means that the InSight lander is expected to reach Mars at some point in September, 2016.
According to InSight principal investigator, Bruce Banerdt, from NASA’s JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory), the trip from Colorado to California was “the first leg of its journey”. Now, they’re on track toward Mars.
InSight stands for ‘Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations Geodesy and Heat Transport’ due to intricate equipment that has been installed on its board. The lander will essentially be studying the deep interior of the Red Planet. This will include rock formations, potential activity, and numerous other processes that could be of significant help. If it all goes according to plan, InSight will improve upon our knowledge on the evolution of rocky planets. Naturally, this includes Earth.
The lander is equipped with the seismometer instrument (SEIS) that was developed by the French Space Station, CNES. Its purpose and heightened sensitivity to seismic activity will carefully map out the deep interior of the foreign planet. Even though it has been met with a bit of a problem in testing, it was reported that the equipment has been fixed. Now, it’s attuned to “exquisite sensitivity to ground motions as small as the width of an atom”.
It will be installed while InSight will be at Vandenberg’s Astrotech Space Operations. In March, it will be ready for launch, and, from there, 6 months of wait until the lander will finally reach Mars. Along with it, InSight will be carrying a microchip with around 827,000 names of people around Earth who have signed up for “send your name to Mars” between August and September of this year.
Image source: jpl.nasa.gov