Named the Insight lander, the itinerary dictates that it will be launched by a United Launch Alliance Atlas V Rocket on Saturday (5th May 2018) in California, from its Vandenberg Air Force Base. Assuming that things go well, the spacecraft, which happens to be solar-powered, will land on Mars on the 26th of November, 2018. It should remain functional for about two years, meanwhile making detailed observations involving the planet’s composition and structure.
Parameters such as temperature, pulse and the like will be measured, as stated by the head of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Thomas Zurbuchen, in a news conference which happened in March, 2018. This is the first instance that an exhaustive check of the planet will be undertaken since its formation about 4.5 billion years back.
InSight also known as “Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport” and uses two instruments for its work. One is a seismometer; called the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) which picks up and measures occurrences such a “marsquakes” and impacts of meteorites. The data will aid in understanding the surface of the planet to a far better extent.
The second instrument is the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3), will protrude to 16.5 feet under surface and measure the heat flowing beneath. This will help shed light on the planet interior and its evolution over time, according to the scientists.
InSight will also conduct an operation called the Rotation and Interior Structure Experiment. The aim is to spot minute changes in the axis of rotation of Mars. Analyzing these changes will data about the planet’s size, core and other parameters, according to the members of the mission team.
The spacecraft bears a close resemblance to NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander, which was responsible for discovering signs of ice and water on Mars in 2008. America’s investment in this mission is 814 million USD, according to NASA officials. In addition to that, Germany and France have contributed a sum of 180 million USD, in order to aid the construction of HP3 and SEIS.
JPL and NASA, have allocated 18.5 million USD for a ground-breaking technology called Mars Cube One (MarCO). It consists of two small spacecraft, called Eva and Wall-E, which will launch InSight and then fly on to Mars separately. Popularly dubbed “cubesats”, they might be the first ones to ever travel to another planet, according to agency officials.