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InSight Lander Transparent.png
InSight MarCO Transparent.png
Top: Artist's rendering of the InSight lander
Bottom: Artist's rendering of the MarCO CubeSats
NamesInterior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport
Geophysical Monitoring Station
Discovery 12
Mission type Mars lander
Operator NASA  / JPL
COSPAR ID 2018-042A
SATCAT no. 43457
Mission durationPlanned: 709 sols (728 days) [1] [2]
Current: 137 sols (140 days) since landing
Spacecraft properties
Manufacturer Lockheed Martin Space Systems
Launch mass694 kg (1,530 lb) [3]
Landing mass358 kg (789 lb) [3]
DimensionsDeployed: 6.0 × 1.56 × 1.0 m (19.7 × 5.1 × 3.3 ft) [4] -
Power600 W, solar  / Li-ion battery [3]
Start of mission
Launch date5 May 2018, 11:05 (2018-05-05UTC11:05)  UTC [5] [6]
Rocket Atlas V 401 [7]
Launch site Vandenberg SLC-3E [7]
Contractor United Launch Alliance
Mars lander
Landing date26 November 2018, 19:52:59 (2018-11-26UTC19:52:59)  UTC [2]
Landing site Elysium Planitia [8] [9]
4°30′N135°00′E / 4.5°N 135.0°E / 4.5; 135.0 (InSight landing site)
Flyby of Mars
Spacecraft component Mars Cube One (MarCO)
Closest approach26 November 2018, 19:52:59 (2018-11-26UTC19:52:59)  UTC [2]
Distance3,500 km (2,200 mi) [10]
InSight Mission Logo.svg

The Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) [1] mission is a robotic lander designed to study the deep interior of the planet Mars. [1] [11] [12] It was manufactured by Lockheed Martin, is managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and most payload instruments it carries were built by European agencies. The mission launched on 5 May 2018 at 11:05  UTC aboard an Atlas V-401 rocket [5] and successfully landed [13] at Elysium Planitia on Mars on 26 November 2018 at 19:52:59 UTC. [14] [15] [5] [16] InSight traveled 483 million km (300 million mi) during its journey. [17]

Robotic spacecraft uncrewed spacecraft, usually under telerobotic control

A robotic spacecraft is an uncrewed spacecraft, usually under telerobotic control. A robotic spacecraft designed to make scientific research measurements is often called a space probe. Many space missions are more suited to telerobotic rather than crewed operation, due to lower cost and lower risk factors. In addition, some planetary destinations such as Venus or the vicinity of Jupiter are too hostile for human survival, given current technology. Outer planets such as Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune are too distant to reach with current crewed spacecraft technology, so telerobotic probes are the only way to explore them.

Lander (spacecraft) spacecraft which descends toward and comes to rest on the surface of an astronomical body

A lander is a spacecraft which descends toward and comes to rest on the surface of an astronomical body. By contrast with an impact probe, which makes a hard landing and is damaged or destroyed so ceases to function after reaching the surface, a lander makes a soft landing after which the probe remains functional.

Mars Fourth planet from the Sun in the Solar System

Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun and the second-smallest planet in the Solar System after Mercury. In English, Mars carries a name of the Roman god of war, and is often referred to as the "Red Planet" because the reddish iron oxide prevalent on its surface gives it a reddish appearance that is distinctive among the astronomical bodies visible to the naked eye. Mars is a terrestrial planet with a thin atmosphere, having surface features reminiscent both of the impact craters of the Moon and the valleys, deserts, and polar ice caps of Earth.


InSight's objectives are to place a seismometer, called SEIS, on the surface of Mars to measure seismic activity and provide accurate 3D models of the planet's interior; and measure internal heat flow using a heat probe called HP3 to study Mars' early geological evolution. [18] This could bring a new understanding of how the Solar System's terrestrial planets  Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars  – and Earth's Moon form and evolve.

Seismometer instrument that records seismic waves (seismograms) by measuring ground motions, caused by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and explosions

A seismometer is an instrument that responds to ground motions, such as caused by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and explosions. Seismometers are usually combined with a timing device and a recording device to form a seismograph. The output of such a device — formerly recorded on paper or film, now recorded and processed digitally — is a seismogram. Such data is used to locate and characterize earthquakes, and to study the earth's internal structure.

Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure Mars seismometer

The Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) is a seismometer and the primary scientific instrument on board the InSight Mars lander launched on 5 May 2018 for a landing on 26 November 2018; the instrument was deployed to the surface of Mars on 19 December. SEIS is expected to provide seismic measurements of Mars, enabling researchers to develop 3D structure maps of the deep interior. Better understanding the Martian interior will lead to better understanding of the Earth, Moon, and rocky planetary bodies in general.

Heat transfer exchange of thermal energy between physical systems

Heat transfer is a discipline of thermal engineering that concerns the generation, use, conversion, and exchange of thermal energy (heat) between physical systems. Heat transfer is classified into various mechanisms, such as thermal conduction, thermal convection, thermal radiation, and transfer of energy by phase changes. Engineers also consider the transfer of mass of differing chemical species, either cold or hot, to achieve heat transfer. While these mechanisms have distinct characteristics, they often occur simultaneously in the same system.

The lander was originally planned for launch in March 2016. [12] [19] Following a persistent vacuum failure in the SEIS instrument prior to launch, with the 2016 launch window missed, InSight was returned to Lockheed Martin's facility in Denver, Colorado, for storage. NASA officials decided in March 2016 to delay launching InSight to May 2018. [6] This allowed time for the seismometer issue to be fixed, although it increased the cost from the previous US$675 million to a total of US$830 million. [20] By reusing technology from the Mars Phoenix lander, which successfully landed on Mars in 2008, mission costs and risks were reduced. [21]

<i>Phoenix</i> (spacecraft) robotic spacecraft on a space exploration mission on Mars under the Mars Scout Program

Phoenix was a robotic spacecraft on a space exploration mission on Mars under the Mars Scout Program. The Phoenix lander landed on Mars on May 25, 2008. Mission scientists used instruments aboard the lander to assess the local habitability and to research the history of water there. The total mission cost was about US $386 million, which includes cost of the launch.


Discovery Program selection

InSight comes together with the backshell and surface lander being joined, 2015. PIA19666-MarsInSightLander-Assembly-20150429.jpg
InSight comes together with the backshell and surface lander being joined, 2015.

InSight was initially known as GEMS (Geophysical Monitoring Station), but its name was changed in early 2012 following a request by NASA. [22] Out of 28 proposals from 2010, [23] it was one of the three Discovery Program finalists receiving US$3 million in May 2011 to develop a detailed concept study. [24] In August 2012, InSight was selected for development and launch. [12] Managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) with participation from scientists from several countries, the mission was cost-capped at US$425 million, not including launch vehicle funding. [25]

Discovery Program NASAs space exploration missions

NASA's Discovery Program is a series of lower-cost, highly focused American scientific space missions that are exploring the Solar System. It was founded in 1992 to implement then-NASA Administrator Daniel S. Goldin's vision of "faster, better, cheaper" planetary missions. Discovery missions differ from traditional NASA missions where targets and objectives are pre-specified. Instead, these cost-capped missions are proposed and led by a scientist called the Principal Investigator (PI). Proposing teams may include people from industry, small businesses, government laboratories, and universities. Proposals are selected through a competitive peer review process. All of the completed Discovery missions are accomplishing ground-breaking science and adding significantly to the body of knowledge about the Solar System.

Jet Propulsion Laboratory Research and development center and NASA field center in California, US

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is a federally funded research and development center and NASA field center in La Cañada Flintridge, California, United States, though it is often referred to as residing in Pasadena, California, because it has a Pasadena ZIP Code.

Schedule issues

Lockheed Martin began construction of the lander on 19 May 2014, [26] with general testing starting in 27 May 2015. [27]

A persistent vacuum leak in the CNES-supplied seismometer known as the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) led NASA to postpone the planned launch in March 2016 to May 2018. When InSight was delayed, the rest of the spacecraft was returned to Lockheed Martin's factory in Colorado for storage, and the Atlas V rocket intended to launch the spacecraft was reassigned to the WorldView-4 mission. [28]

CNES French space agency

The National Centre for Space Studies (CNES) is the French government space agency. Its headquarters are located in central Paris and it is under the supervision of the French Ministries of Defence and Research.

Atlas V expendable launch system

Atlas V is an expendable launch system in the Atlas rocket family. It was formerly operated by Lockheed Martin and is now operated by United Launch Alliance (ULA), a joint venture with Boeing. Each Atlas V rocket uses a Russian-built RD-180 engine burning kerosene and liquid oxygen to power its first stage and an American-built RL10 engine burning liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen to power its Centaur upper stage. The RD-180 engines are provided by RD Amross, while Aerojet Rocketdyne provides both the RL10 engines and the strap-on boosters used in some configurations. The standard payload fairing sizes are 4 or 5 meters in diameter and of various lengths. Fairings sizes as large as 7.2 m in diameter and up to 32.3 m in length have been considered. The rocket is assembled in Decatur, Alabama and Harlingen, Texas.

WorldView-4, previously known as GeoEye-2, is a third generation commercial Earth observation satellite launched on 11 November 2016. The spacecraft is operated by DigitalGlobe. With a maximum resolution of 31 cm (12 in), WorldView-4 provides similar imagery as WorldView-3, the highest resolution commercially available at the time of its launch.

On 9 March 2016, NASA officials announced that InSight would be delayed until the 2018 launch window at an estimated cost of US$150 million. [6] [29] The spacecraft was rescheduled to launch on 5 May 2018 for a Mars landing on 26 November at 3 p.m. The flight plan remained unchanged with launch using an Atlas V rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. [6] [29] NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory was tasked with redesigning and building a new vacuum enclosure for the SEIS instrument, while CNES conducted instrument integration and testing. [30] [31]

On 22 November 2017 InSight completed testing in a thermal vacuum, also known as TVAC testing, where the spacecraft is put in simulated space conditions with reduced pressure and various thermal loads. [32] On 23 January 2018, after a long storage, its solar panels were once again deployed and tested, and a second silicon chip containing 1.6 million names from the public was added to the lander. [33]

Science background

The Apollo 11 seismometer, 1969 Apollo-PSE.jpg
The Apollo 11 seismometer, 1969


Seismometers on both Viking spacecraft were mounted on the lander, and picked up vibrations from various operations of the lander and from the wind. [34] However, the Viking 1 lander's seismometer did not deploy properly in 1976 after it landed; the seismometer remained locked and did not unlock. The Viking 2 seismometer did unlock, and was able to vibrate and return data to Earth. [35] [36] One problem was accounting for other data, as this was the issue with an event detected on Sol 80 by the Viking 2 seismometer. [37] When this event was recorded, no wind data were recorded at the same time, so it was not possible to determine if the data indicated a seismic event or wind gust. However, for the Sol 80 event the main problem was not wind noise per se, but rather a lack of other data to rule out other sources of vibrations. [38] Two other problems were the location of the lander and that a certain level of wind on Mars caused a loss of sensitivity for the Viking 2 seismometer. [39] InSight has many other sensors, is placed directly on the surface, and also has a wind shield.

Despite the difficulties, the Viking 2 seismometer readings were used to estimate a Martian geological crust thickness between 14 and 18 km (8.7 and 11.2 mi) at the Viking 2 lander site. [40] The Viking 2 seismometer did detect vibrations from Mars winds complementing the meteorology results. [40] [41] There was the aforementioned candidate for a possible marsquake, but is not particularly definitive. The wind data did prove useful in its own right, and despite the limitations of the data, widespread and large marsquakes were not detected. [42]

Seismometers were also left on the Moon, starting with Apollo 11 in 1969, and also by Apollo 12, 14, 15 and 16 missions and provided many insights into lunar seismology, including the discovery of moonquakes. [43] [44] The Apollo seismic network, which was operated until 1977, detected at least 28 moonquakes up to 5.5 on the Richter scale. [45]

One of the aspects of the InSight mission is to compare the Earth, Moon, and Mars seismic data to learn more. [46]

Well, seismic investigation is really the heart of this mission. Seismology is the method that we've used to gain almost everything we know, all the basic information about the interior of the Earth, and we also used it back during the Apollo era to understand and to measure sort of the properties of the inside of the moon. And so, we want to apply the same techniques but use the waves that are generated by Mars quakes, by meteorite impacts to probe deep into the interior of Mars all the way down to its core.

Gravity Assist: Mars and InSight with Bruce Banerdt (May 3, 2018) [47]


Radio Doppler measurements were taken with Viking and twenty years later with Mars Pathfinder , and in each case the axis of rotation of Mars was estimated. By combining this data the core size was constrained, because the change in axis of rotation over 20 years allowed a precession rate and from that the planet's moment of inertia to be estimated. [48] InSight's measurements of crust thickness, mantle viscosity, core radius and density, and seismic activity should result in a three- to tenfold increase in accuracy compared to current data. [49]


The InSight mission placed a single stationary lander on Mars to study its deep interior and address a fundamental issue of planetary and Solar System science: understanding the processes that shaped the rocky planets of the inner Solar System (including Earth) more than four billion years ago. [50]

Comparison of the interiors of Earth, Mars and the Moon (artist concept) Terrestrial Planet Interiors (Earth, Mars and Moon) - Artist's Concept.jpg
Comparison of the interiors of Earth, Mars and the Moon (artist concept)

InSight's primary objective is to study the earliest evolutionary history of the processes that shaped Mars. By studying the size, thickness, density and overall structure of Mars' core, mantle and crust, as well as the rate at which heat escapes from the planet's interior, InSight will provide a glimpse into the evolutionary processes of all of the rocky planets in the inner Solar System. [51] [50] The rocky inner planets share a common ancestry that begins with a process called accretion. As the body increases in size, its interior heats up and evolves to become a terrestrial planet, containing a core, mantle and crust. [52] Despite this common ancestry, each of the terrestrial planets is later shaped and molded through a poorly understood process called differentiation. InSight mission's goal is to improve the understanding of this process and, by extension, terrestrial evolution, by measuring the planetary building blocks shaped by this differentiation: a terrestrial planet's core, mantle and crust. [52]

InSight lander on Mars (artist concept) PIA22745-Mars-InSightLander-ArtistConcept-20181030.jpg
InSight lander on Mars (artist concept)

The mission will determine if there is any seismic activity, measure the rate of heat flow from the interior, estimate the size of Mars' core and whether the core is liquid or solid. [53] This data would be the first of its kind for Mars. [49] It is also expected that frequent meteor airbursts (10–200 detectable events per year for InSight) will provide additional seismo-acoustic signals to probe the interior of Mars. [54] The mission's secondary objective is to conduct an in-depth study of geophysics, tectonic activity and the effect of meteorite impacts on Mars, which could provide knowledge about such processes on Earth. Measurements of crust thickness, mantle viscosity, core radius and density, and seismic activity should result in a three- to tenfold increase in accuracy compared to current data. [49] This is the first time a robotic lander dug this deep into the martian crust.

In terms of fundamental processes shaping planetary formation, it is thought that Mars contains the most in-depth and accurate historical record, because it is big enough to have undergone the earliest accretion and internal heating processes that shaped the terrestrial planets, but is small enough to have retained signs of those processes. [50] The science phase is expected to last for two years. [1]


The InSight lander with solar panels deployed in a cleanroom PIA19664-MarsInSightLander-Assembly-20150430.jpg
The InSight lander with solar panels deployed in a cleanroom

The mission further develops a design based on the 2008 Phoenix Mars lander. [55] Because InSight is powered by solar panels, it landed near the equator to enable maximum power for a projected lifetime of two years (1 Martian year). [1] The mission includes two relay microsatellites called Mars Cube One (MarCO) that launched with InSight but were flying in formation with InSight to Mars. [56]

Three major aspects to the InSight spacecraft are the cruise stage, the entry, descent, and landing system, and the lander. [57]

Overall specifications


Lander specifications

Comparison of single-sol energy generated by various probes on Mars. (30 November 2018) PIA22835-MarsProbes-SingleSolGeneratedEnergy-20181130-corrected.png
Comparison of single-sol energy generated by various probes on Mars. (30 November 2018)
Power is generated by two round solar panels, each 2.15 m (7.1 ft) in diameter and consisting of SolAero ZTJ triple-junction solar cells made of InGaP/InGaAs/Ge arranged on Orbital ATK UltraFlex arrays. After touchdown on the Martian surface, the arrays are deployed by opening like a folding fan. [60]


InSight lander with labeled instruments PIA17358-MarsInSightLander-20140326.jpg
InSight lander with labeled instruments
InSight collecting weather data (artist concept) PIA22957-Mars-InSight-WeatherDataCollection-ArtistConcept-20190219.jpg
InSight collecting weather data (artist concept)

InSight's lander payload has a total mass of 50 kg, including science instruments and support systems such as the Auxiliary Payload Sensor Suite, cameras, the instrument deployment system, and a laser retroreflector. [3]

InSight will perform three major experiments using SEIS, HP3 and RISE. [65] SEIS is a very sensitive seismometer, measuring vibrations; HP3 involves a burrowing probe to measure the thermal properties of the subsurface. [66] RISE uses the radio communication equipment on the lander and on Earth to measure the overall movement of planet Mars that could reveal the size and density of its core. [67]

Test of the 2.4 meter long Instrument Deployment Arm, seen deploying SEIS
HP3 on the lander deck on Sol 10.
InSight's HP3 instrument Layer-3-full.jpg
HP3 diagram
The TWINS meteorological sensor

The two relay 6U cubesats were part of the overall InSight program, and were launched at the same time as the lander but they were attached to the centaur upper stage (InSight's second stage in the launch). [84] They were ejected from the stage after launch and coasted to Mars independent of the main InSight cruise stage with the lander. [85]

Journey to Mars


On 28 February 2018, InSight was shipped via C-17 cargo aircraft from the Lockheed Martin Space Systems building in Denver to the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California in order to be integrated to the launch vehicle. [86] The lander was launched on 5 May 2018 and arrived on Mars at approximately 19:54 UTC on 26 November 2018.

Launch of the Atlas V rocket carrying InSight and MarCO from Vandenberg Space Launch Complex 3-E. Despegue de InSight (VAFB-20180505-PH JBS01 0012).jpg
Launch of the Atlas V rocket carrying InSight and MarCO from Vandenberg Space Launch Complex 3-E.

The spacecraft was launched on 5 May 2018 at 11:05 UTC on an Atlas V 401 launch vehicle (AV-078) from Vandenberg Air Force Base Space Launch Complex 3-East. [5] This was the first American interplanetary mission to launch from California. [87]

The launch was managed by NASA's Launch Services Program. InSight was originally scheduled for launch on 4 March 2016 on an Atlas V 401 (4 meter fairing/zero (0) solid rocket boosters/single (1) engine Centaur) from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, U.S., [87] but was called off in December 2015 due to a vacuum leak on the SEIS instrument. [88] [89] [90] The rescheduled launch window ran from 5 May to 8 June 2018.

Major components of the launch vehicle include:

The journey to Mars took 6.5 months across 484 million km (301 million mi) for a touchdown on 26 November. [5] [16] After a successful landing, a three-month-long deployment phase commenced as part of its two-year (a little more than one Martian year) prime mission. [91] [92]

SLC-3 Service Tower Rolls Back for InSight.jpg
Service Tower Rolls Back
InSight Prelaunch (NHQ201805050009).jpg
InSight rises above the fog (VAFB-20180505-PH CSH01 0001).jpg
InSight heading to space


Animation of InSight's trajectory from 5 May 2018 to 26 November 2018
InSight *   Earth *   Mars Animation of InSight trajectory.gif
Animation of InSight's trajectory from 5 May 2018 to 26 November 2018
  InSight ·   Earth  ·   Mars

After its launch from Earth on the 5th of May in 2018, it coasted through interplanetary space for 6.5 months traveling across 484 million km (301 million mi) for a touchdown on the 26th November in that year. [5] [16]

InSight cruise stage departed Earth at a speed of 6,200 miles per hour (10,000 kilometers per hour). [93] The MarCo probes were ejected from the 2nd stage Centaur booster and traveled to Mars independent of the InSight cruise stage, but they were all launched together

During the cruise to Mars, the InSight cruise stage makes several course adjustments, and the first of these (TCM-1) took place on May 22, 2018. [94] The cruise stage that carries the lander includes solar panels, antenna, star trackers, sun sensor, inertial measurement unit among its technologies. [95] The thrusters are actually on the InSight lander itself, but there are cutouts in the shell so the relevant rockets can vent into space. [96]

The final course correction was November 25, 2018, the day before its touch down. [97] A few hours before making contact with the Martian atmosphere, the cruise stage was jettisoned, on 26 November 2018. [98]

InSight on way to Mars
Exterior (artist concept)

Entry, Descent, and Landing

PIA22829 InSight's First Image from Mars, Annotated version.jpg
PIA22575 IDC Camera First Image.jpg
First light on the surface of Mars from the Instrument Context Camera (ICC, left) and the Instrument Deployment Camera (IDC, right)
November 26, 2018 (Touch down-day // Sol 0)

On 26 November 2018, at approximately 19:53 UTC, mission controllers received a signal via the Mars Cube One (MarCO) satellites that the spacecraft had successfully touched down [13] at Elysium Planitia. [5] [14] [16] After landing, the mission will take three months to deploy and commission the geophysical science instruments. [91] [92] It will then begin its mission of observing Mars, which is planned to last for two years. [1]

The mass that entered the atmosphere of Mars was 1,340 pounds (608 kilograms) . [99]

There are three major stages to InSight's landing: [100]

Landing sequence: [101]

The lander mass is about 358 kg (789 lb) [3] but on Mars which has gravity 0.376 of Earth's [103] it will weigh only 134.608 kg (296.76 lb)

InSight lander separating from its cruise stage PIA22828.jpg
InSight cruise stage and lander separate prior to landing
Insight landing-640x350.gif
Touchdown on Elysium Planitia (animation)
A simulated view of NASA's InSight lander about to land on the surface of Mars.

On 26 November 2018 InSight successfully touched down in Elysium Plantia. [13]

A few hours after landing, NASA's 2001 Mars Odyssey orbiter relayed signals indicating that InSight's solar panels had successfully unfurled and are generating enough electrical power to recharge its batteries daily. Odyssey also relayed a pair of images showing InSight's landing site. [104] More images would be taken in stereo pairs to create 3D images, allowing InSight to find the best locations on the surface to place the heat probe and seismometer. Over the next few weeks, InSight would check health indicators and monitor both weather and temperature conditions at the landing site. [91]

Landing site

InSight Lander - panorama (9 December 2018) PIA23140-Mars-InsightLander-Panorama-12092018.jpg
InSight Lander - panorama (9 December 2018)

As InSight's science goals are not related to any particular surface feature of Mars, potential landing sites were chosen on the basis of practicality. Candidate sites needed to be near the equator of Mars to provide sufficient sunlight for the solar panels year round, have a low elevation to allow for sufficient atmospheric braking during EDL, flat, relatively rock-free to reduce the probability of complications during landing, and soft enough terrain to allow the heat flow probe to penetrate well into the ground.

An optimal area that meets all these requirements is Elysium Planitia, so all 22 initial potential landing sites were located in this area. [105] The only two other areas on the equator and at low elevation, Isidis Planitia and Valles Marineris, are too rocky. In addition, Valles Marineris has too steep a gradient to allow safe landing. [8] In September 2013, the initial 22 potential landing sites were narrowed down to 4, and the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter was then used to gain more information on each of the 4 potential sites before a final decision was made. [8] [106] Each site consists of a landing ellipse that measures about 130 by 27 km (81 by 17 mi). [107]

In March 2017, scientists from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory announced that the landing site had been selected. It is located in western Elysium Planitia at 4°30′N135°54′E / 4.5°N 135.9°E / 4.5; 135.9 (InSight landing site) . [108] The landing site is about 600 km (370 mi) north from where the Curiosity rover is operating in Gale Crater. [109]

On 26 November 2018 the spacecraft successfully touched down at its landing site, [13] and in early December 2018 InSight lander and EDL components were imaged from space on the surface of Mars. [110]

InSight landing zone is in the south and west of this grid, near 4.5 degree North and 136 degrees East, this is south and to the west of Elysium Mons and Eddie crater
PIA21489 - Advance Inspection of NASA's Next Mars Landing Site.jpg
Image footprints by HiRise on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter for studying the planned Insight landing ellipse. From east to west the scale is about 160 km (100 mi)
InSight final landing location (red dot)
(13 December 2018)
Artist's concept depicts NASA's InSight lander after it has deployed its instruments on the Martian surface.
PIA22892 Unlatching InSight's Arm.gif
NASA’s InSight spacecraft unlatched its robotic arm on Nov. 27, 2018, the day after it landed on Mars.
PIA22893 InSight's First View of Mars with the Cover Off.jpg
InSight on Mars − clear view (open lens cover) of landing area (ICC; 30 November 2018)
InSight parachute, lander, shield (11 December 2018)
InSight parachute, lander, shield
(26 November 2018)

InSight - First full self-portrait (11 December 2018) PIA22876-InSight-FirstSelfie-20181211.jpg
InSight - First full self-portrait (11 December 2018)

Surface operations

On 26 November 2018, NASA reported that the InSight lander had landed successfully on Mars. The meteorological suite (TWINS) and magnetometer are operational, and the mission will take up to three months to deploy and commission the geophysical science instruments. [91] [92] One of the first critical tasks was to unfurl the solar panels for the batteries to be recharged. [111] After landing, the dust was allowed to settle for a few hours, time during which the solar array motors were warmed up and then the solar panels were unfurled. [112] [113] The lander then reported its systems' status, acquired some images, and it powered down to sleep mode for its first night on Mars. On its first sol on Mars it set a new solar power record of 4.6 kilowatt-hours generated for a single Martian day (known as a "sol"). [62] This amount is enough to support operations and deploy the sensors. [114]

InSight on the surface of Mars (6 December 2018)
PIA22871 Full View of InSight's Deck and Two Science Instruments.jpg
Deck and science instruments
Robotic arm over Martian soil
PIA22873 Partial View of Insight's Robotic Arm and Deck.jpg
Robotic arm and deck
PIA22736 InSight Images a Solar Panel.jpg
One of its two solar panels
Set up of wind and thermal shield
Set up of heat probe (HP3)
InSightseismometer deployed, first time onto the surface of another planet (19 December 2018) [115]
context (ICC-gif)
deploying (IDC-gif)
final (IDC)
lander (green) and shield (white dot) - viewed from space (4 February 2019)

On December 7, 2018 InSight recorded the sounds of Martian winds with SEIS, which is able to record vibrations within human hearing range, although rather low (aka subwoofer-type sounds), and these were sent back to Earth. [116] This was the first time the sound of Mars wind was heard after two previous attempts. [117]

On 19 December 2018, the SEIS instrument was deployed onto the surface of Mars next to the lander by its robotic arm, [115] and it was commissioned on 4 February 2019. [118] After the seismometer became fully operational, the heat probe instrument was deployed on 12 February 2019. [119] [120]

On 28 February 2019, the Heat and Physical Properties Package probe (HP³) started its drilling into the surface of Mars. The probe and its digging mole were intended to reach a maximum depth of 5 m (16 ft) about two months after.

On 7 March 2019, the HP³ instrument’s mole paused its digging. The mole had made it about 30 cm (12 in) or three quarters of the way out of its housing structure and into the ground. Engineers think the mole hit a rock which caused it to make little progress since 2 March 2019. Both NASA and JPL continue to look into the cause of the under-performing tool and for potential solutions. Scientifically useful measurements are possible at a depth of 3 m (9.8 ft).

MarCO spacecraft

Flight hardware of Mars Cube One (MarCO) (folded up)
MarCO CubeSats relaying data during InSight's landing (artist concept)

The Mars Cube One (MarCO) spacecraft are a pair of 6U CubeSats that piggybacked with the InSight mission to test CubeSat navigation and endurance in deep space, and to help relay real-time communications (eight minute delay) [92] during the probe's entry, descent and landing (EDL) phase. [121] [122] The two 6U CubeSats, named MarCO A and B, are identical, [123] they were launched along with InSight, but separated soon after reaching space, [124] and they flew as a pair for redundancy while flanking the lander. [56] They did not enter orbit, but flew past Mars during the EDL phase of the mission and relayed InSight's telemetry in real time. [125] [126] On 5 February 2019, NASA reported that the CubeSats went silent, and are unlikely to be heard from again. [127]

Team and participation

Insight team at JPL Insight team at jpl-br2 (1).jpg
Insight team at JPL

The InSight science and engineering team includes scientists and engineers from many disciplines, countries and organizations. The science team assigned to InSight includes scientists from institutions in the U.S., France, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Japan, Switzerland, Spain, Poland and the United Kingdom. [131]

Mars Exploration Rover project scientist W. Bruce Banerdt is the principal investigator for the InSight mission and the lead scientist for the SEIS instrument. [132] Suzanne Smrekar, whose research focuses on the thermal evolution of planets and who has done extensive testing and development on instruments designed to measure the thermal properties and heat flow on other planets, [133] is the lead for InSight's HP3 instrument. The Principal Investigator for RISE is William Folkner at JPL. [134] The InSight mission team also includes project manager Tom Hoffman and deputy project manager Henry Stone. [131] Major contributing agencies and institutions are: [79]

NASA team cheers as the InSight Lander touches down on Mars. (26 November 2018) NASA-TeamCheers-InSight-LandsOnThePlanetMars-20181126.jpg
NASA team cheers as the InSight Lander touches down on Mars. (26 November 2018)

Name chips

As part of its public outreach, NASA organized a program where members of the public were able to have their names sent to Mars aboard InSight. Due to its launch delay, two rounds of sign-ups were conducted totaling 2.4 million names: [135] [136] 826,923 names were registered in 2015 [137] and a further 1.6 million names were added in 2017. [138] An electron beam was used to etch letters only 11000 the width of a human hair onto 8 mm (0.3 in) silicon wafers. [137] The first chip was installed on the lander in November 2015 and the second on 23 January 2018. [137] [138]

Name chips on InSight
PIA22540 InSight Camera Calibration Target, Laser Retroreflector, and Microchip.jpg
One name chip installed
The first name chip for InSight
The second name chip, inscribed with 1.6 million names, is placed on InSight in January 2018.
Name chips on Mars
Instrument Context Camera (ICC), November 2018
PIA22829 InSight's First Image from Mars.png
First image from Mars, clear lens cap on
PIA22829 InSight's First Image from Mars, Annotated version.jpg
First image with annotations
PIA22893 InSight's First View of Mars with the Cover Off.jpg
Without clear lens cover

Context map

Acidalia PlanitiaAcidalia PlanitiaAlba MonsAmazonis PlanitiaAonia TerraArabia TerraArcadia PlanitiaArcadia PlanitiaArgyre PlanitiaElysium MonsElysium PlanitiaHellas PlanitiaHesperia PlanumIsidis PlanitiaLucas PlanumLyot CraterNoachis TerraOlympus MonsPromethei TerraRudaux CraterSolis PlanumTempe TerraTerra CimmeriaTerra SabaeaTerra SirenumTharsis MontesUtopia PlanitiaValles MarinerisVastitas BorealisVastitas BorealisInSight
InSight Interactive imagemap of the global topography of Mars, overlain with locations of Mars landers and rovers. Hover your mouse to see the names of over 25 prominent geographic features, and click to link to them. Coloring of the base map indicates relative elevations, based on data from the Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter on NASA's Mars Global Surveyor . Whites and browns indicate the highest elevations (+12 to +8 km); followed by reds and pinks (+3 to +8 km); yellow is 0 km; greens and blues are lower elevation (down to −8 km). Axes are latitude and longitude; Poles are not shown.
(   Rover  Lander  Future )
Beagle 2 (2003)
Curiosity (2012)
Deep Space 2 (1999)
Rosalind Franklin rover (2021?)
InSight (2018)
Mars 2020 rover (2021?)
Mars 2 (1971)
Mars 3 (1971)
Mars 6 (1973)
Polar Lander (1999)
Opportunity (2004)
Phoenix (2008)
Schiaparelli EDM (2016)
Sojourner (1997)
Spirit (2004)
Viking 1 (1976)
Viking 2 (1976)

See also

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