Spacecraft cruising in space

InSight Cruises to Mars (Artist's Concept): This artist's concept shows the InSight spacecraft, encapsulated in its aeroshell, as it cruised to Mars. Full image and caption ›

What is the spacecraft?

The spacecraft is the protective "spaceship" that protected the lander during its travel between Earth and Mars. The spacecraft is separate from the launch vehicle that carried the spacecraft and the lander outside of Earth's atmosphere and gravitational pull. The spacecraft included the mechanical units that safely maneuvered the lander through the Martian atmosphere to a landing on Mars.


The three major parts that made up the InSight spacecraft are:

Cruise Stage:
The Cruise Stage encapsulated the lander and its landing system for travel between Earth and Mars. It included an aeroshell, which consists of a backshell and a heat shield that protected the lander from harsh forces encountered during launch and landing.

Entry, Descent and Landing System (EDL):
The EDL system included the aeroshell and parachute. Once released from the backshell, the lander’s thrusters slowed its descent. The final touchdown was enabled by shock-absorbing legs.

InSight’s stationary lander deployed sensitive instruments on the surface of Mars, to directly sense the planet's "vital signs."