NASA’s Mars rovers regularly send back awesome images of the red planet, not to mention an incredible wealth of scientific data, but that’s not stopping scientists from looking ahead to future. NASA is already prepping the next gadget it’s going to send to Mars, and it’s on track for a launch in the first half of next year. It’s called InSight, and it’s going to look deep into Mars in a way that’s never before been possible.
InSight will be a stationary lander, rather than a wheeled rover like its more famous older brothers, but that doesn’t make its mission any less interesting. The lander will touch down near the Martian equator, where it will deploy its scientific instruments. Those instruments will remain in place permanently, and InSight’s robotic arm will have one shot at perfectly placing them on the planet.
The craft’s two primary tools are a seismometer and a heat probe. The probe, which is designed to detect and report the heat energy emanating from within Mars, will dig itself to a depth of at least ten feet in order to have the best chance at returning accurate data. Meanwhile, the seismometer’s incredibly sensitive hardware will detect even the most minute movement of the planet’s layers, while also detecting impacts from meteors and, as NASA puts it, “marsquakes.”
The InSight mission is expected to launch in early May of 2018, with a five-week period starting May 5th being the ideal timeframe. As long as there aren’t any dramatic setbacks in the construction of the InSight hardware, it should be able to make its date without issue.