Mission Firsts

  • InSight is the first Mars mission dedicated to studying the planet's deep interior.
  • InSight is the first mission to place a seismometer directly on the Martian surface.
  • InSight will try to detect quakes for the first time on another planet.
  • InSight is the first to use a self-hammering mole to burrow deep into the crust of Mars, going 15 times deeper than any previous Mars mission, to a depth of 10 to 16 feet (3 to 5 meters).
  • InSight is the first interplanetary launch from the West Coast.
  • InSight is the first spacecraft to use a robotic arm to grasp instruments on another planet.
  • InSight’s magnetometer is the first ever used on the surface of Mars.
  • MarCO is the first mission to test CubeSats in deep space.

Mars Insight Mission Logo

Mission Name

The long form of the mission's name is Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport, which includes the three main research techniques to be used by the InSight stationary lander. A dictionary definition of "insight" is to see the inner nature of something.


InSight cruise vehicle dimensions (cruise stage and aeroshell with lander inside): Height: 5 feet, 9 inches (1.76 meters); aeroshell diameter: 8 feet, 8 inches (2.64 meters); wingspan of cruise solar arrays: 11 feet, 2 inches (3.40 meters)

InSight Lander Dimensions

Height range (after its legs compress a still-to-be-determined amount during impact): between 33 to 43 inches (83 to 108 centimeters) from the bottom of the legs to the top of the deck;
Span with solar arrays deployed: 19 feet, 8 inches (6.00 meters); width of deck: 5 feet, 1 inch (1.56 meters); length of robotic arm: 5 feet, 11 inches (1.8 meters)

Mars Cube One (MarCO) Dimensions

Twin spacecraft, each 14.4 inches (36.6 centimeters) by 9.5 inches (24.3 centimeters) by 4.6 inches (11.8 centimeters)


About 1,530 pounds (694 kilograms) total of InSight spacecraft at launch. The spacecraft includes the lander, which is about 790 pounds (358-kilograms), the 418-pound (189-kilogram) aeroshell, 174-pound (79-kilogram) cruise stage and 148 pounds (67 kilograms) of loaded propellant and pressurant.
Mass of each MarCO spacecraft: 30 pounds (13.5 kilograms).
Total payload mass on the rocket: 1,590 pounds (721 kilograms)


Solar panels and lithium-ion batteries on both InSight and MarCO. On InSight, the two solar array panels together provide about 1,800 watts on Earth on a clear day. On Mars, they provide 600-700 watts on a clear day, or just enough to power a household blender. They’re estimated to provide 200-300 watts on a dusty day, even with dust covering the panels.

InSight Science Payload

About 110 pounds (50 kilograms), including Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure, Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package, Auxiliary Payload Sensor Suite, Instrument Deployment System and Laser Retroreflector. (The Rotation and Interior Structure Experiment uses the lander's telecommunications system.)


One camera on InSight’s robotic arm and one camera on the spacecraft’s lander deck, both capable of producing color images of 1,024 pixels by 1,024 pixels. On each MarCO: a wide-field camera (primarily to confirm high-gain antenna deployment). On MarCO-B: a narrow-field camera. Each kind of camera on MarCO is capable of color images 752 x 480 pixels in resolution.

Launch Vehicle

Type: Atlas V 401    Height with payload: 188 feet (57.3 meters)

Photo of rocket that will carry the Insight payload.

Artist's concept of Insight lander on the surface of Mars.


Launch period: May 5 through June 8, 2018

Launch windows: May 5 window opens at 4:05 a.m. PDT (7:05 a.m. EDT; 11:05 UTC) and lasts for two hours. On subsequent dates, the window opens a few minutes earlier each day, to 12:30 a.m. PDT (3:30 a.m. EDT) by June 8, and remains open for up to two hours

Launch site: Space Launch Complex 3, Vandenberg Air Force Base, California

Earth-Mars distance on May 5, 2018: 75 million miles (121 million kilometers)

Travel distance, Earth to Mars (May 5 launch): About 301 million miles (485 million kilometers)

Mars landing: Nov. 26, 2018, about noon PST (3 p.m. EST; 20:00 UTC). At the Mars landing site, this will be mid-afternoon on a winter day

Landing site: About 4.5 degrees north latitude, 135.9 degrees east longitude, in Elysium Planitia

Earth-Mars distance on Nov. 26, 2018: 91 million miles (146 million kilometers)

One way radio transit time, Mars to Earth, on Nov. 26, 2018: 8.1 minutes

Mission: One Martian year plus 40 Martian days (nearly 2 Earth years), until Nov. 24, 2020

Expected near-surface atmospheric temperature range at landing site during primary mission: minus 148 F to minus 4 Fahrenheit (minus 100 Celsius to minus 20 Celsius)


U.S. investment in InSight is $813.8 million, including about $163.4 million for the launch vehicle and launch services, and the rest for the spacecraft and operations through the end of the prime mission. In addition, France and Germany, the major European participants, have invested about $180 million in InSight’s investigations, primarily the seismometer investigation (SEIS) and heat flow investigation (HP3). JPL and NASA are investing about $18.5 million for the Mars Cube One technology.