Mars' 2016 Lander launch to probe how Earth-like planets are formed
NASA and its international partners get the go-ahead to start construction on a new Mars lander after it completed a successful Mission Critical Design Review on Friday.
The mission will investigate how Earth-like planets formed and developed their layered inner structure of core, mantle and crust, and will collect information about those interior zones using instruments never before used on Mars.
NASA's Interior Exploration Using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) mission will pierce beneath the Martian surface to study its interior.
InSight will launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base, on the central California coast near Lompoc, in March 2016. This will be the first interplanetary mission ever to launch from California. The mission will help inform the agency's goal of sending a human mission to Mars in the 2030's.
InSight team leaders presented mission-design results this week to a NASA review board, which approved advancing to the next stage of preparation.
To investigate the planet's interior, the stationary lander will carry a robotic arm that will deploy surface and burrowing instruments contributed by France and Germany. The national space agencies of France and Germany -- Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales (CNES) and Deutsches Zentrum fur Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR) -- are partnering with NASA by providing InSight's two main science instruments.
The three-legged lander will go to a site near the Martian equator and provide information for a planned mission length of 720 days -- about two years. InSight adapts a design from the successful NASA Phoenix Mars Lander, which examined ice and soil on far-northern Mars in 2008.
Another experiment will use the radio link between InSight and NASA's Deep Space Network antennas on Earth to precisely measure a wobble in Mars' rotation that could reveal whether Mars has a molten or solid core. Wind and temperature sensors from Spain's Centro de Astrobiologia and a pressure sensor will monitor weather at the landing site, and a magnetometer will measure magnetic disturbances caused by the Martian ionosphere.
Guided by images of the surroundings taken by the lander, InSight's robotic arm will place the seismometer on the surface and then place a protective covering over it to minimize effects of wind and temperature on the sensitive instrument. The arm will also put the heat-flow probe in position to hammer itself into the ground to a depth of 3 to 5 yards (2.7 to 4 1/2 meters).
(Posted on 20-05-2014)