- On Saturday, the InSight spacecraft will head to Mars to listen for marsquakes and study the planet’s structure
- InSight is a lander mission, which means the spacecraft will land on the surface of the red planet and then stay stationary where it will land
NASA’s next mission to Mars is almost here. NASA has set May 5, Saturday, as the launch date from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
The mission will be the first Red Planet spacecraft to lift off from the West Coast.
According to Space, the InSight Mars lander will provide an interior snapshot of Mars to learn more about how rocky planets are formed. A heat probe will dig under the surface to look at the temperature of the interior. A seismometer will measure marsquakes and meteorite hits.
In addition, a radio science instrument will transmit InSight’s position to Earth as the planet wobbles in its orbit around the sun. The wobble provides information about the composition and size of the Martian core.
InSight is a lander mission, which means the spacecraft will land on the surface of the red planet and then stay stationary where it will land. Different from rovers, which land on the surface and then move around, or orbiters, that never lands but instead will orbit the planet or moon that are the targets of scientific study.
“This mission really goes beyond Mars,” says Sharon Kedar of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.
InSight’s data might reveal similar details about rocky exoplanets throughout the galaxy — how they formed, how they evolved.
“If we want to know how rocky planets in general are formed,” says Kedar, “then Mars is the most available target for this kind of research.”