What is InSight? Take a tour inside Nasa’s new Mars lander

Solar arrays designed and manufactured by Orbital ATK-Goleta

What is InSight? Take a tour inside Nasa’s new Mars lander

While InSight will be stopping at Mars on November 26, WALL-E and EVE will zoom past the planet from about 2,200 miles (3,500 kilometers) out.

But the primary objective of the MarCO mission, says Klesh, is to prove that mini-spacecraft technology is up to the challenge of interplanetary travel.

InSight, which stands for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport, will be NASA's first mission to peer deep within the interior of Mars with a suite of instruments created to give the planet a thorough check-up from the inside out.

InSight will lift off at 1105 UTC and is meant to be the first mission to peer beneath the Martian surface, studying the planet's interior by measuring its heat output and listening for mars-quakes - seismic events similar to earthquakes on Earth.

According to the website, the mission of InSight is to help scientists "understand the processes that shaped the rocky planets of the inner solar system (including Earth) more than 4 billion years ago". This map shows the location of previous NASA landers and rovers. The arm is also equipped with cameras, which will provide 3-D color views. The InSight mission is part of NASA's Discovery Program which is managed by the agency's Marshall Space Flight Center situated in Huntsville, Alabama. A little over an hour later, at about 11:30 p.m. PDT (May 5, 2:30 a.m. EDT), the 260-foot-tall (80-meter) Mobile Service Tower - a structure that has been protecting the Atlas V launch vehicle and its InSight payload during their vertical assembly - will begin a 20-minute long, 250-foot (about 80-meter) roll away from the Atlas. Their mission, while important in their own right, will not impact upon the science objectives set aside for InSight. The moon still holds seismometers left behind by the 12 moonmen.

The goal of the ambitious undertaking is to excavate deep into the jagged surface of Mars and stay what makes the planet tick underground. The Martian atmosphere and magnetic field also have been examined in detail over the decades. "Once we're on the ground and have communications set up, I'm confident we can get a lot of great science out of the mission, no matter what happens".

InSight will land in Elysium Planitia, a plain just north of the Martian equator. Banerdt jokingly calls it "the biggest parking lot on Mars".

InSight isn't the only mission launching this month; JPL's GRACE-FO satellite is scheduled to take off on May 19 and will pick up from the 15-year GRACE mission to continue monitoring how melting polar ice caps are contributing to rising sea levels. One mystery is why Mars, a planet less dense and half the width of Earth, did not grow any larger.

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