NASA's next mission to Mars is weeks away from launch. InSight is more than a Mars mission. Its team members hope to unlock the mysteries of the formation and evolution of rocky planets, including Earth.
[Bruce Banerdt] The basic idea of InSight is to map out the deep structure of Mars. We know a lot about the surface of Mars. We know a lot about its atmosphere and even about its ionosphere but we don't know very much about what goes on a mile below the surface; much less 2000 miles below the surface down to the center. And, this will be the first mission that's going to Mars specifically to investigate the deep inside of Mars.
[Tom Hoffman] We know that the Earth is habitable. We know that Mars is not. There might be something that we find out in terms of the structure of Mars versus the structure of Earth that maybe can help us understand why that is.
[Banerdt] InSight carries a seismometer which measures the seismic waves that have traveled through Mars from marsquakes and maps out to deep interior structure of Mars.
[Hoffman] We're gonna also have a Heat Flow and Physical Properties Probe which will penetrate into the Mars surface about five meters or 16 feet to take the temperature of Mars.
[Banerdt] And it has a radio science experiment which uses the radio on the spacecraft to measure small variations in the wobble of Mars's pole to understand more about the structure and composition of the core.
[Jaime Singer] Insight will be the first mission to pick instruments up off the deck of the lander and place them on the surface of Mars. I like to say that we're playing the "claw game" on Mars with no joystick. The seismometer needs to be installed in one place and basically not move in order to get the best seismic data.
[Hoffman] We also have a wind and thermal shield that will then be placed on top of that seismometer to protect it further from the environment.
[Singer] For the heat flow probe, HP3, it also needs to sit in one place, take a while to hammer itself down into the ground and acquire the thermal measurements over a long period of time.
[Banerdt] Insight is a mission to Mars but it's much much more than a Mars mission. In some sense it's like a time machine. It's measuring thestructure of Mars that was put in place 4 1/2
billion years ago so we can go back and understand the processes that formed Mars just shortly after it was accreted from the solar nebula. By studying Mars, we'll be able to learn more about Earth, Venus, Mercury, even the moon, even exoplanets around other stars.