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InSight (Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport) is a NASA Discovery mission scheduled to land on Mars in November 2018 and conduct surface observations for one martian year. The surface station will carry 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 platform is supported 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 charging batteries.

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 two cameras to aid in deployment and instrument context; sensors for atmospheric pressure, temperature, and wind and a magnetometer to help determine the external environmental contribution to the seismic signals; 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

After launch (window opens on 5 May 2018) and a half-year Type 1 cruise to Mars, InSight will land in the western Elysium Planitia region. 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. Deployment is scheduled for the first two months, with the primary mission lasting about two years, covering one full martian orbit.

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Alternate Names

  • Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport

Facts in Brief

Launch Date: 2018-05-05
Launch Vehicle: Atlas V
Launch Site: Vandenberg AFB, United States

Funding Agency

  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration (United States)


  • Planetary Science

Additional Information

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



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