NASA and its international partners from Europe and Japan have been given the go-ahead to begin construction on a new Mars lander after it completed a successful Mission Critical Design Review.
NASA’s Interior Exploration Using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) mission will pierce beneath the Martian surface to study its interior. The mission will investigate how Earth-like planets formed and developed their layered inner structure of core, mantle and crust, and will collect information about those interior zones using instruments not previously used on Mars.
InSight will launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base, on the central California coast near Lompoc, in March 2016 and will help inform the agency’s goal of sending a human mission to Mars in the 2030’s.
InSight team leaders presented mission-design results this week to a NASA review board, which approved advancing to the next stage of preparation.
‘Our partners across the globe have made significant progress in getting to this point and are fully prepared to deliver their hardware to system integration starting this November, which is the next major milestone for the project,’ said Tom Hoffman, InSight project manager of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, California. ‘We now move from doing the design and analysis to building and testing the hardware and software that will get us to Mars and collect the science that we need to achieve mission success.’
According to NASA, the stationary lander will carry a robotic arm that will deploy surface and burrowing instruments contributed by France and Germany. The national space agencies of France and Germany – Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES) and Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR) – are partnering with NASA by providing InSight’s two main science instruments.
The Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) will be built by CNES in partnership with DLR and the space agencies of Switzerland and Britain. It will measure waves of ground motion carried through the interior of the planet, from so-called marsquakes and meteor impacts. The Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package, from DLR, will measure heat coming toward the surface from the planet’s interior.