Another Mars mission is on its way to the pad with NASA and its consortium of partners from Europe and Japan getting the green light for construction of the InSight (Interior Exploration Using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport) Mars lander following the completion of the its Mission Critical Design Review.
InSight is scheduled to be launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California in March 2016, the first planetary mission to launch from the US west coast. Its mission is to study the interior of the Red Planet using instruments that have never before been sent there.
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The lander is based on NASA’s Phoenix lander, which landed at the Martian North Pole in 2008, and is designed for a 720-day primary mission near the Martian equator. The unmanned stationary lander has a robotic arm for placing instruments, including hammering a heat-flow meter up to 15 ft (4.5 m) into the ground.
The instruments aboard the lander will include a Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS), which is built by France’s Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES) along with the British and Swiss national space agencies. SEISS is designed to study seismic waves from marsquakes and meteor strikes.
The other major experiment is the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package from the Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR) which will measure the interior temperature of Mars. The mission will also use radio signals to measure the wobble of the Martian rotation, wind and temperature sensors, and a magnetometer to chart disturbances in the Martian ionosphere.
“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," says Tom Hoffman, InSight Project Manager of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, 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."