InSight into Mars
Artist rendition of the Mars InSight lander with seismometer and heat probe deployed.
Image courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech

 
We have seen many beautiful pictures of the Red Planet; many Martian probes and rovers have returned stunning cratertop vistas, looming mountains, vast canyons and icy fields. Often, science needs to get behind the pretty pictures for a deeper understanding of what we see...or in the case of the NASA"s Mars InSight Mission, science needs to get underneath the surface of those pictures.

Scheduled to be launched in 2016, Mars InSight will land on the Martian surface and begin its mission to probe the inner geology of Mars. Is Mars geologically active? How often do meteors hit the surface? How hot is the Martian interior? What drives the planet? These are some of the many questions that can only be answered by studying the interior of Mars itself.

Mars is considered by many planetary scientists to be a valuable relic of the early solar system. 
 Mars is large enough to have undergone many internal geologic processes and interior differentiation. Also, Mars cooled down swiftly after its formation, due to its distance from the Sun and diminutive size; its crust has "locked" the signatures of many of the processes that formed the terrestrial planets from four billion years ago. These facts combined make Mars a perfect laboratory to study the origin and evolution of the terrestrial planets of our solar system.

InSight will deploy several instruments to measure these geologic fossils. HP3 is a temperature probe that will be hammered five meters into the crust as a sort of thermometer to measure the flow of heat from Mars' interior. SEIS, a seismometer, will measure quakes and other internal seismic activity, including meteor impacts. RISE will measure the wobble of Mars as it is pulled by the Sun, by measuring the Doppler shift of radio waves from Earth. InSight will also possess a couple of cameras to take a peek at the landing site and to monitor the deployment of the above instruments. 

For a fun activity, check out our Worlds of the Solar System activity which compares the sizes and types of planets in our solar system. Find out how Mars compares with the other rocky worlds, as well as the giant outer planets! 

The more we learn about the other planets in our solar system; the more we end up learning about our own planet Earth as well.  For more information on the Mars InSight mission, please check out its official website here: http://insight.jpl.nasa.gov/home.cfm
 


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