NASA’S In­sight lan­der will tell us more about the in­te­rior of Mars than ever be­fore

How It Works - - COTENTS - Words by Jonathan O’callaghan

How NASA’S next Mars mis­sion will look in­side the Red Planet

Over the last five decades we have sent a host of mis­sions to Mars. Some have been or­biters, de­signed to im­age the planet from afar. Oth­ers were rovers sent to probe the sur­face and an­a­lyse rocks at dif­fer­ent lo­ca­tions. But now a new mis­sion will do some­thing we’ve never done be­fore – it will try and peer in­side Mars it­self, telling us not only what the planet is made of, but how it and other rocky plan­ets formed. NASA’S In­sight mis­sion was launched on 5 May 2018 from the Van­den­berg Air Force Base in Cal­i­for­nia on an At­las V rocket. Af­ter a jour­ney of about 485 mil­lion kilo­me­tres, it is sched­uled to touch down on Mars on 26 Novem­ber 2018. Mars is hard, and many mis­sions have failed, so there’s al­ways a chance In­sight won’t make it. But pre­sum­ing it does, these next few pages will run through what this pi­o­neer­ing mis­sion will do on Mars for just over one Mars year (two Earth years). In­sight is a sta­tion­ary lan­der, like NASA’S Phoenix lan­der on Mars in 2008, which means it won’t be rov­ing around the sur­face. In­stead, it will touch down in a lo­ca­tion near the equa­tor called Ely­sium Plani­tia, where it will stay for the en­tirety of its mis­sion. This re­gion was picked for a num­ber of rea­sons, one be­ing that it is rel­a­tively smooth, thereby min­imis­ing any prob­lems when land­ing and pro­vid­ing an easy en­vi­ron­ment in which to con­duct science. It also has an abun­dance of sun­light, mean­ing In­sight’s so­lar pan­els will

“In­sight will try and peer in­side Mars it­self”

This map de­picts In­sight’s tra­jec­tory from Earth to Mars

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