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Key Facts About NASA's InSight Lander

Launch Window: May 5, 2018 - June 8, 2018
Launch Vehicle: Atlas V-401
Launch Location: Vandenberg Air Force Base, California
Landing: Nov. 26, 2018
Landing Site: Elysium Planitia, Mars
Mission Duration: A little over 1 Mars year (~2 Earth years); 708 Sols (Mars days), or 728 Earth days
Artist's concept of the InSight Lander

InSight Mission Overview

Mars' Interior
Artist's rendition showing the inner structure of Mars. The topmost layer is known as the crust, underneath it is the mantle, which rests on a solid inner core.

InSight - Studying the 'Inner Space' of Mars

InSight, short for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport, is a Mars lander designed to give the Red Planet its first thorough checkup since it formed 4.5 billion years ago. It is the first outer space robotic explorer to study in-depth the "inner space" of Mars: its crust, mantle, and core.

Studying Mars' interior structure answers key questions about the early formation of rocky planets in our inner solar system - Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars - more than 4 billion years ago, as well as rocky exoplanets. InSight also measures tectonic activity and meteorite impacts on Mars today.

The lander uses cutting edge instruments, to delve deep beneath the surface and seek the fingerprints of the processes that formed the terrestrial planets. It does so by measuring the planet's "vital signs": its "pulse" (seismology), "temperature" (heat flow), and "reflexes" (precision tracking).

This mission is part of NASA's Discovery Program for highly focused science missions that ask critical questions in solar system science.

First Interplanetary CubeSat

The rocket that will loft InSight beyond Earth will also launch a separate NASA technology experiment: two mini-spacecraft called Mars Cube One, or MarCO. These suitcase-sized CubeSats will fly on their own path to Mars behind InSight.

Their objective is to relay back InSight data as it enters the Martian atmosphere and lands. It will be a first test of miniaturized CubeSat technology at another planet, which researchers hope can offer new capabilities to future missions.

If successful, the MarCos could represent a new kind of data relay to Earth, getting news of a safe landing -- and any potential problems -- sooner. InSight’s success is independent of its co-passengers.

InSight Science Goals

The InSight mission seeks to uncover how a rocky body forms and evolves to become a planet by investigating the interior structure and composition of Mars. The mission will also determine the rate of Martian tectonic activity and meteorite impacts.

The Mars InSight lander has two science objectives that support the Mission's science goals:

Formation & Evolution:Understand the formation and evolution of terrestrial planets through investigation of the interior structure and processes of Mars.
Tectonic Activity:Determine the present level of tectonic activity and meteorite impact rate on Mars.

Why Mars?

Previous missions to Mars have investigated the surface history of the Red Planet by examining features like canyons, volcanoes, rocks and soil. However, signatures of the planet's formation can only be found by sensing and studying its "vital signs" far below the surface.

In comparison to the other terrestrial planets, Mars is neither too big nor too small. This means that it preserves the record of its formation and can give us insight into how the terrestrial planets formed. It is the perfect laboratory from which to study the formation and evolution of rocky planets. Scientists know that Mars has low levels of geological activity. But a lander like InSight can also reveal just how active Mars really is.