NASA's Mars Landing Sites, including InSight
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NASA's InSight mission will land in the Elysium Planitia region of Mars. InSight -- an acronym for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport -- will study the deep interior of Mars to improve understanding of the processes that formed and shaped rocky planets, including Earth and its Moon.
The location of the landing site for InSight is indicated on this near-global topographic map of Mars, which also indicates landing sites of current and past NASA missions to the surface of Mars.
The location of Elysium Planitia close to the Martian equator meets an engineering requirement for the stationary InSight lander to receive adequate solar irradiation year-round on its photovoltaic array. The location also meets an engineering constraint for low elevation, optimizing the amount of atmosphere the spacecraft can use for deceleration during its descent to the surface.
The topographic map uses data from the Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter on NASA's now inactive Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft. The color coding on this map indicates elevation relative to a reference datum, since Mars has no "sea level." The lowest elevations are presented as dark blue; the highest as white. The difference between green and orange in the color coding is about 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) vertically.
InSight will deploy a heat-flow probe designed to hammer itself 10 to 16 feet deep and monitor heat coming from the planet's interior. The mission will also use a seismometer and radio science.
JPL manages InSight for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. InSight is part of NASA's Discovery Program, managed by the agency's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Lockheed Martin Space in Denver built the InSight spacecraft, including its cruise stage and lander, and supports spacecraft operations for the mission.
A number of European partners, including France's Centre National d'Études Spatiales (CNES) and the German Aerospace Center (DLR), are supporting the InSight mission. CNES provided the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) instrument, with significant contributions from the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) in Germany, the Swiss Institute of Technology (ETH) in Switzerland, Imperial College and Oxford University in the United Kingdom, and JPL. DLR provided the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3) instrument.
Photojournal Note: This caption was updated on Oct. 31, 2018.