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InSight (Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport) is a NASA Discovery mission which landed on Mars in November 2018 and conduct surface observations until December 2022. The surface station carries cameras, X-band transponder, seismic and heat flow instruments designed with the scientific goals of understanding the formation and evolution of terrestrial planets through investigation of the interior structure and processes of Mars and to determine the present level of tectonic activity and meteorite impact rate on Mars. The specific objectives are to determine; 1) the size, composition and physical state (liquid/solid) of the core; 2) the thickness and structure of the crust 3) the composition and structure of the mantle; and 4) the thermal state of the interior, and to measure the magnitude, rate and geographical distribution of internal seismic activity and the rate of meteorite impacts on the surface.

Spacecraft and Subsystems

The InSight lander consists of a platform holding the science and operational payload and two disc-shaped solar panel arrays extending from opposite sides. The 1.56 meter diameter platform is supported approximately 108 cm above the ground by three legs. It has an Instrument Deployment Arm (IDA), a robotic arm that will be used to place the seismic and heat flow instruments on the surface. Other science payload components and antennas are mounted on top of the platform deck, with the electronics and communication equipment under the deck. Power is provided by the two solar panel arrays, each 2.2 m in diameter, charging batteries. Total span of the lander incuding sollar panels is about 6 meters, total landed mass is 360 kg. (Entry mass, which includes heatshield, parachute, and fuel, is about 608 kg.)

The science payload includes three primary experiments: 1) SEIS (Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure), a six-component seismometer; 2) HP3 (Heat Flow and Physical Properties Probe), a self-penetrating array of temperature sensors, and 3) RISE (Rotation and Interior Structure Experiment), which uses the X-band communications system to enable precise tracking of the planet's motion. InSight also has the TWINS (Temperature and Wind sensors for INSight mission) instrument to measure the wind and temperature at the mission platform surface; a sensor for atmospheric pressure and a magnetometer, all to help determine the external environmental contribution to the seismic signals; two cameras to aid in deployment and instrument context; and an IR radiometer to measure surface temperatures affecting the heat flow experiment. A small passive laser retroreflector is also mounted on the deck.

Mission Profile

InSight launched on 5 May 2018 at 11:05 UT from Vandenburg Air Force Base on an Atlas V rocket. After a half-year Type 1 cruise to Mars, InSight landed in the western Elysium Planitia region on 26 November 2018 at 19:52:59 UT. The deployment phase involves using the Instrument Deployment Arm to place the SEIS and HP3 instruments on the ground, connected to the lander by electronic tethers. The HP3 instrument uses a self-contained mole device to hammer into the ground to a depth of about 5 meters. At deployment there were problems getting the mole to penetrate into the ground more than a few cm, it finally reached a depth of about 40 cm. The primary mission was scheduled to last about two years, ending 24 November 2020, (covering a little over one full martian solar orbit). The mission was given an extension until December 2022. The last transmission from InSight was received on 15 December 2022. After two failed attempts to communicate with the lander, the mission was declared over, presumably due to the inability of the solar cell batteries to maintain enough power to run the spacecraft, on 21 December 2022.

Mars Cube One (MarCO)

Launching with InSight was a technology demonstration designated Mars Cube One (MarCO), two small 6u cubesats (MarCO A and B) that separated and will follow InSight on its cruise to Mars. The cubesats will act as relays to transmit data back to Earth during InSight's entry, descent, and landing. Each cubesat is approximately 36.6 x 24.3 x 11.8 cm stowed, with solar panel wings, a flat-panel X-band antenna, and UHF antenna when deployed. They can receive radio signals from InSight in UHF and X-band and transmit to Earth in X-band.

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Alternate Names

  • 43457
  • Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport
  • urn:nasa:pds:context:instrument_host:spacecraft.insight

Facts in Brief

Launch Date: 2018-05-05
Launch Vehicle: Atlas V 401
Launch Site: Vandenberg AFB, United States
Mass: 360 kg

Funding Agency

  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration (United States)


  • Planetary Science

Additional Information

Questions and comments about this spacecraft can be directed to: Dr. David R. Williams



NameRoleOriginal AffiliationE-mail
Dr. W. Bruce BanerdtMission Principal InvestigatorNASA Jet Propulsion
Dr. Suzanne E. SmrekarDeputy Mission Principal InvestigatorNASA Jet Propulsion

Selected References

  • Banerdt, W.B., et al., InSight: A Discovery Mission to Explore the Interior of Mars, Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, Vol. 44, p. 1915, Mar. 2013.
  • Banerdt, W.B., et al., The InSight mission for 2018, Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, Vol. 48, p. 1896, Mar. 2017.
  • Banerdt, W.B., and C.T. Russel, Editorial on: Topical Collection on InSight Mission to Mars, Space Sci. Rev., 211, 1-3, doi:10.1007/s11214-017-0414-0, 2017.
  • Golombek, M., et al., Selection of the InSight Landing Site, Space Sci. Rev., 211, 5-95, doi:10.1007/s11214-016-0321-9, 2017.
  • Banerdt, W.B., et al., Initial results from the InSight mission on Mars, Nature Geosciences, 13, No. 3, 183-189, doi:10.1038/s41561-020-0544-y, Feb. 2020.
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